Observe and Be Observed – PD in Focus 4

(Image taken from www.storyline-scotland.com)
(Image taken from http://www.storyline-scotland.com)

What comes to your mind when you hear the word observation? Does it make you nervous, think really carefully about your lesson plan, or even worse, think this might be the end of your teaching career? We have all thought those thoughts and even experienced teachers say it makes them feel nervous. I used to get very stressed over them, but after starting to think of them as a constructive experience that can benefit both sides, the observer and the observed, it has become much better.

It can also be your choice.

If you want to be observed and my advice is to do it with your own initiative from time to time, choose a colleague that you can trust. Trust as in someone who can be honest with you and sit with you afterwards to go into what went well and what didn’t. When I do this, it is great because I can see where I need to work on and what I can keep doing well. Additionally, the person observing can get ideas for their own lessons, or see something you do and adopt it. For instance, a colleague of mine who came into a class to observe me said that he liked the constant feedback I give my students during the lesson. He found it helpful for the students because at that moment they were motivated and if they made a mistake they said for example, Ah ok, if I want to say that…I have to use that tense then?

If you are going to be observed but cannot choose the person who will be the observer, then keep seeing it as a constructive experience. The person who is there (your Director of Studies, someone from the Ministry of Education) might come up with negative comments, which can be hard for the person observed to get over. If you feel that the negative feedback is something you could really fix in your teaching, then use it to your own and your students’ benefit. If the feedback is negative because the person is a negative personality as well (and it happens quite often), then see it as a learning experience again – things that you will never do when you observe someone!

That last point is also one to keep in mind – ask your colleagues whether you can observe them. It is something I enjoy doing as I can see different teaching styles and get ideas for my own teaching. I love the feedback sessions afterwards too.

Observations need not be stressful or make educators feel bad about their teaching. We are all in this together and why not help each other? It can have great results both for us and for our students as well.

Note: Remember to ask your school for permission to observe or get someone to observe you, as in many schools unfortunately it is not practised. The same goes if you choose to go into another school, even if you know the teacher already – speak to the principal or Director of Studies before you go in and explain your plans.

Observation should be a  learning experience, either way – a bridge between observer and observed.

17 thoughts on “Observe and Be Observed – PD in Focus 4

    1. Hi Meindra!

      I praise them when they do something very well and let them know where they need help. We talk about almost everything in class, without exposing them to their peers of course. I hope that helps!

      Best wishes,

  1. One idea which may work well – especially if you’re a little shy about having a live observer in class – is videoing yourself take a lesson and then watch and analyze yourself later. It can often be incredibly useful for both new and seasoned teachers!

    It’s explained here: http://tinyurl.com/chzzf6h

    1. Hi and thank you for adding that! I know a lot of teachers who record themselves in class and then sit on their own, or with colleagues if they feel comfortable, to go over the lesson.

      Have a great day!

  2. I found observations during my practicum experience to be nerve-racking at first, but there is something deeply insightful about watching a recorded lesson and reflecting on your teaching from the outside.

  3. Just seconding the video idea. Our program has switched over almost entirely to video because the teacher gets a look first, can share it with trusted colleagues, reflect/question/like elements of it, all before anyone with authority might have a look at the video. This really enriches and neutralizes the whole process, and allows the teacher to go back again and again over time looking at different things and understanding what’s happening differently as they develop. The other equally important thing we’ve found is that learners are less affected by a camera than by a silent witness taking notes in the back. So it supports students’ learning better.

    1. Hi Tom!

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience with videos. I especially like what you say at the end that a camera is less likely to affect the students, rather than a person sitting at the back. And it is great that the teacher being observed gets a look first.

      Thanks so much!

  4. Reblogged this on Stop Complaining – Enjoy Teaching! and commented:
    I’ll never forget the first time I was observed. It was over 20 years ago, during my MA program, and I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t move out from behind the desk. But the observer, my teacher, made the whole experience a learning experience for me and I remember her observations and advice to this day. We can learn so much from each other if we were just able to lose our fear and learn to be constructive instead of judgemental.

  5. Hi dear Vicky ! Now at my school we have created a group for peer observation – at last! It is being rewarding and extremely useful for all of us …. Peer observation is definitely THE way to learn from each other . Even we have been asked to show how we are working with this project at a TESOL regional event . I do encourage everybody to try and observe and be observed … What you learn about your own teaching practice while you are observed is priceless not only from your peer feedback but from your own reflection , your own auto – feedback.

    Big hugs

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