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Observation and Feedback Module

Types of Observation Printable Version

Formal Observations
This is the type of observation most of us are familiar with what we
could call the classic type. The observer, usually a senior person in the
organisation is in a position of authority and goes in to the class to assess
the standard of teaching. Teaching may be assessed against a checklist of
actions or behaviours. The focus is on the lesson as a product and the
teacher as the producer, with learning outcomes for the students taking a
back seat. This is usually the most threatening type of observation for
teachers, particularly if they have little or no other contact with the
observer otherwise. This type is useful as a way of observing standards
and ensuring the desired quality of teaching is delivered. However, it is
better if this is not the only type of observation being used, especially if
the organisational focus of observation is developmental.
This is short [usually about 10 15 minutes], usually minimally scheduled
and useful for getting a feel for whats happening in class. It is often used
at the beginning of courses to ensure that students are placed in the
correct level, and this focus on the students rather than the teacher helps
this to be less threatening. [Although not so, if you follow up the pop-in
with a critique of the teaching you saw when you were supposedly
watching the students, not the teacher!] Repeated frequently as an
observation type, and if the teachers know and agree that you will pop in
to watch the teaching as well as the students, it can help you to build up
an overall picture of someones approach. It also avoids the special
lesson syndrome.
Peer Observation
Teachers observe each other, perhaps having their classes covered by
another person [you?] to free up time to do this. This system works best if
teachers work in teams of about three and rotate the roles of observer
and observee. This system can be less threatening for the observee and is
particularly useful for newer teachers or teachers working on the same
levels of types of classes. A couple of points to bear in mind:
There needs to be some understanding of the role of the observer, i.e.
that the role is not the same as in a formal observation and no written
feedback is given.
Thought needs to be given to the creation of the observing teams. One
way to disabuse staff of their preconceptions about another teacher is to
encourage them to work with that teacher. If you allow teachers to choose
their own teams, you may find that teachers
with similar teaching styles cluster together. This is not in itself a bad
thing, but allocating the teams can encourage awareness of a diversity of
approaches, and help to reduce the effect of staffroom cliques
Series Observation

Here the teachers are observed over a series of lesson. This allows
teachers to, e.g., incorporate approaches discussed in feedback into
subsequent lessons, and for this then to be discussed. This approach
ensures that no one lesson is seen as all-important. However, it is fair to
say that this approach can be extremely time-consuming, especially with
a larger staff.
Videoed/taped lessons
The teacher is either videoed or tapes their lesson/ a section of their
lesson. They later watch this either alone, with a colleague or with a
supervisor. This is very useful tool for self-development, although at first
teachers [and students] may feel self-conscious. There are now some
good platforms for recording videos of teaching, for example Iris Connect
http://www.irisconnect.co.uk/ and Panopto. http://panopto.com/ . However,
it is perfectly possible to record directly from a static camera or a tablet,
although its worth having a try out to sort out any tech problems before
you film the actual lesson.
Unobserved Observation
A contradiction in terms? Perhaps, but this is another useful selfdevelopment tool. The teacher meets with the observer and talks through
what s/he plans to do in the lesson. The teacher teaches the lesson
without the observer being in the room and then afterwards, meets with
the observer again to discuss how the lesson actually went. This is
appealing to those who find observation threatening or those who want to
improve their self-evaluation skills. Having used this type of observation
quite a lot, Ive found it works very well with more experienced teachers,
[like Jan in the recordings you listened to] who may have issues with the
standard observation format.