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Understanding Teacher Observation

November 27, 2023

What Does Teacher Observation Involve?

Teacher observation is an insightful practice where educators attend another teacher’s class to observe and gain insights. It’s a process that happens in real-time, within a classroom setting, and can be either formal or informal. Typically, peers, school administrators, or instructional specialists conduct these observations. The goal is to offer constructive feedback to enhance classroom management and teaching methods. Teacher observation focuses on various classroom dynamics like engagement techniques, time management, student participation, and instructional strategies. It’s a valuable tool for teachers at all career stages, from newly qualified ones to veterans in the field.

Different Names and Formats of Teacher Observations

Known by various terms like lesson observations, learning walks, or walkthroughs, these sessions can vary in length, ranging from a few minutes to an entire class period or even a full day. The techniques used for observation can range from nationally recognized models to custom approaches developed by the educators themselves.

Observations are typically documented using standardized templates or guidelines to ensure focus and consistency. While often associated with job-performance evaluations, teacher observations are equally vital for professional development, enabling educators to learn from each other’s expertise and teaching styles.

Key Aspects Monitored During Observations

When conducting a lesson observation, the observer usually checks for:

  • Lesson Introduction: Efficiency in engaging students and organizing the lesson.
  • Resource Utilization: Accessibility and appropriateness of teaching materials.
  • Lesson Difficulty: Suitability of the lesson’s challenge level for various student abilities.
  • Classroom Management: Opportunities for independent learning and strategies for addressing student queries.
  • Subject Knowledge and Delivery: Clarity and interactivity in teaching.
  • Behavior Management: Adherence to school norms and overall classroom environment.
  • Awareness of Student Needs: Responsiveness to student progress and challenges.
  • Lesson Conclusion: Effectiveness of summarizing and transitioning to future lessons.

Observers also make general notes for any additional observations.

Benefits of Engaging in Teacher Observation

  • For Observers: Gain new teaching insights, evaluate personal methods, and understand student reactions from a new perspective.
  • For the Observed Teachers: Receive valuable feedback, reassess classroom dynamics, and enhance professional development.

Teacher observation opens doors to new teaching methods and fosters a culture of shared learning and respect. While it may initially seem intimidating, a well-executed observation can be enriching for both parties involved.

Focus Areas for New and Beginner Teachers

For newly qualified teachers or those in early career stages, the emphasis is on basic pedagogic skills like classroom management and instructional strategies. As they gain experience, the focus shifts to Pedagogic Content Knowledge (PCK), which blends teaching methods with subject matter expertise. In specialized areas like Senior Leadership (SL) classrooms, specific strategies like structured pair-work activities become crucial.

Ofsted’s Role in Teacher Observations

Ofsted performs teacher observations to assess the quality of education. Their approach includes a comprehensive review of curriculum quality, deep dives into selected subjects, and evaluation of school leadership and management.

Approaching Teacher Observations

When observing a colleague’s teaching, it’s important to maintain sensitivity and respect. Positive reinforcement, supportive constructive feedback, and gratitude for the opportunity to observe are key to a successful observation experience.

Teacher observation is more than a mere evaluation tool; it’s a gateway to mutual growth and learning, benefiting the entire educational community.

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