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A Different Take on Lesson Observations

By Louise Raw on April, 3 2014
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How useful and important do you find feedback? What do you do when taking it into consideration?

Feedback (fiːdbak/) noun:

 

1. Information about reactions to a product, a person's performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.

2. The modification or control of a process or system by its results or effects, for example in a biochemical pathway or behavioural response.

So now that we are clear on what feedback is (it really does do what it says on the tin!), how exactly is this useful in the world of teaching?

The crucial point that we want to underline is that this sometimes painful process, is vital to the progression and continuous improvement of our teaching methods.

Like students and other professions, without this concrete evidence of our pitfalls and successes, helping us to draw on our experiences and develop our existing skills set, we would remain stationary in an ever-changing industry, with the daunting task of inspiring the future generations.

Staying ahead of the game

Away from the context of Ofsted, where a teacher’s performance should not be judged solely on the performance of their lesson, observations are still widely used as formative assessment by schools themselves.

Seeing a tick or a cross next to broad questions such as ‘Were students engaged’ or ones that require individual details such as ‘Did every child make progress’ is not always useful. Notes can be brief, colleagues can be overly complimentary, and teachers can ultimately be left in the dark about their teaching methods, habits and pitch. After all, every class, student and teacher is different - so it doesn’t make sense for one method of feedback fit all.

The added pressure of an authority figure at the back of the classroom is for many, a factor that will cause them to over-prepare to ensure an outstanding lesson, or to underperform due to the added pressure. This is not a reliable method.

Lights, Camera, Action!

So next time you have lesson observations at your school, we propose that you crack out the video camera, and start shooting!

Not only can you avoid the unfair judgement of a one-off disaster, but you can also ensure that teachers who may be more self-conscious can continue their practise in ease, representing more of a natural lesson environment, over a longer, and therefore more reliable timeframe.

The Concrete Truth

The advantages and outcomes could be phenomenal. You cannot dispute what you see in a video, or kid yourself that it wasn’t as bad as you thought. On the flip side, teachers who constantly worry and sell themselves short may be able to finally see their areas of improvements, their clear triumphs and the buzz and enjoyment in their classroom. This can be a huge confidence boost!

Questions to consider:

  • Are you pitching at the appropriate level?
  • Can you hear yourself clearly from the back of the classroom?
  • Is there one child in particular that is being disruptive?
  • Does a break help the students to come back refreshed?
  • Did you change the seating plan, did this increase engagement?
  • How many different learning styles did you cater for across the lesson?
  • Is your body language approachable or closed off?
  • Do students ask questions?

On reflection:

  • Did it go better or worse that you originally thought?
  • Did you give the students enough time and praise?
  • Could you pick up on any habits that you do and could change?

With all of this at your fingertips, all indisputable, you can really make leaps and bounds in terms of your improvements and fine-tuning of your teaching practices, to ensure that your lessons shine across the board. We truly believe that consistency leads to outstanding outcomes.


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