Whatever has happened to using teacher observation as an approach to assess student achievement? Presently, the emphasis is upon state mandated testing to ascertain student progress. Much is written in educational journals about having students achieve No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal and state standards, signed into law in 2002. Much drill is going into students passing mandated tests for grades three through eight, and an exit test in high school to receive a diploma. Schools also need to pass an Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) test. If the latter is not passed two years in a row, then that school will be listed as "failing." Students may then opt out of a failing school and attend a "successful" school at local district expense. This has placed much pressure upon teachers and principals to have students and classes be termed "successful," in meeting NCLB requirements. Learners are then being drilled, particularly, in reading and mathematics. There are even reports of principals pressuring teachers to teach students in these two curriculum areas, only. This leaves out major curriculum areas in teaching and learning.
Systematic teacher observation of students in the classroom is vital. There are a plethora of factors in behavior which defy objective measurement, such as being a caring person. Which are selected facets which need to be observed to ascertain learner progress in reading, among others?
* a lack of comprehension. Students then read words, but lose out on the trend of thought involved.
* hesitancy in word identification
* rapid forgetting of reading skills taught, such as phonic elements
* failure to relate personal experiences to ensuing content to be read
* poor listening skills when background information is presented for reading subject matter.
A teacher who observes carefully and in a knowledgeable manner may do much to assist students in facilitating learning. Almost immediately when observing, the teacher diagnoses and begins to remediate student difficulties in the classroom setting.
Teacher Observation in Mathematics
In mathematics, there are many things which the teacher may observe in student daily work. The teacher must possess a quality set of criteria to use in the evaluation process.
Thus, in ongoing lessons in mathematics, the teacher may observe the following, among others:
* regrouping and renaming difficulties in arithmetical algorithms
* not understanding basic operations on number
* illegible writing of numerals
* hasty, careless work
* difficulties in using place value in arithmetic
* lack of motivation in doing mathematics
* problems in retaining learnings.
Learning activities need to be provided to overcome the above named difficulties. Individual differences need adequate provision. The mathematics teacher must secure the interests of students so that active involvement is in evidence. A high degree of interest is necessary to obtain adequate student achievement. This assists students to develop and maintain time on task habits. Students, also, need to understand new learnings encountered. Meaning in learning makes subject matter more applicable to new situations. A learner may not be able to use previous learnings due to not understanding the inherent subject matter. Thus, mathematics teachers need to provide adequate background information so that students attach meaning to new content acquired.
Sometimes, pupils may feel little need to achieve objectives mathematics. The teacher then must help students to perceive purpose in learning. Reasons for learning new concepts and generalizations must be stressed. The teacher may use a deductive or an inductive approach in assisting students to accept purpose for achieving. Time spent by the teacher in helping students perceive purpose in mathematics goal attainment is time well spent. …