Penny Ur’s Input
Penny started off by attracting the attention to the importance of GOALs while conducting observations. There may be two main goals:
- Appraisal (i.e. for a promotion or for general reasons)
- Formative (for development)
Once the goal is clear, there are several pre-conditions to consider: time, pre-conference and during observations.
- Time: allowing enough time for the different stages is a must. Setting aside about 30 minutes before and after the observation would be necessary.
- Pre-conference meeting: should be conducted in a comfortable, friendly and supportive atmosphere between the observer and the observe, and it is advisable to establish aims and set objectives in advance.
Penny underlined the importance of the following:
- Comforting the observee: ask general questions, perhaps about mutual friends, etc. and then discuss their teaching context.
- Learning about the Background: Ask questions like “Anything you want to tell me about this class?” “Your feelings about your teaching here?” “Any particular problems I need to know about?”
- Establishing goals: Ask questions like “What I’ll usually be looking out for?” “What you would like me to look out for? General? Specific?” Maybe not a certain methodology but focusing on whether or not students are learning is important.
- Planning the lesson: You must decide whether you want a written lesson plan or an oral description. Ask the observee if they want to involve you in the lesson.
* During observation: It is necessary to be inconspicuous in the classroom. Although it is almost impossible not to be conscious of the observation, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible for the observer is important.
A few points to consider here:
- Introducing the observer to the students.
- Where the observer should sit: If the observer sits at the back, there is a chance that s/he may not catch student activities well. Penny suggested to sit at the side as a compromise. She also mentioned that at the back you can see what students are not doing J. For example, the teacher asks them to do task X, but students may be checking their social media accounts, so you can report these during the post-observations.
- How to record the class activities: Penny says that checklists are popular. She suggests that observers should use a table as follows. Making mental notes may not be reliable. Making rough notes on the table would help the observer to organise the notes and the questions when there are ambiguities.
|Time||Events||Comments / questions|
* Whether the observer should intervene: Penny says there is no such a thing as “never”. There may be occasions, such as discipline, for the observer to intervene in order to comfort the observee.
Lasagabaster, D., & Sierra, J. M. (2011). Classroom observation: desirable conditions established by teachers. European Journal of Teacher Education, 34 (4), 449–463.
Stronge, J. H. (2010). Evaluating What Good Teachers Do: Eight Research-Based Standards for Assessing Teacher Excellence. Eye on Education. 6 Depot Way West Suite 106, Larchmont, NY 10538.
Jeremy Harmer’s input
Jeremy started with an anecdote. Once he was giving the feedback as an observer with all his excitement but the teacher’s eyes were glazed after the first 11 minutes. He said he understood that what he was doing was not useful as the observee was not listening any more. So he said “Small is beautiful in giving feedback.”
Jeremy added that nobody can look at everything that is occurring in a lesson. It is advisable to limit it to 3 things to think about.
Some ideas on observations from Jeremy:
- Video-taping the lesson and talking through it with the teacher.
- Giving only positive feedback, he refers to Deniz Kurtoğlu-Eken who applies this method. Teachers feel great at the end of the observation. Jeremy comments that everybody needs a medal so this may be a way to go. For areas to improve, perhaps the trainer can give missions to the observee. So giving positive feedback and suggesting a way to go can be applied.
- The way we end the post-observation meeting also matters. A positive and friendly closing would be the best.
- Jeremy mentioned Heron’s 6 categories of intervention. The observer must identify which one may be the most favourable for the observe. Some people may prefer authoritative intervention whereas others may prefer a facilitative approach. The level of experience may also affect the choice.
Jeremy also recommended ELTJ articles on teacher development as great resources for teacher trainers.