Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Watch and Learn How to Get the Most out of Observations

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Watch and Learn How to Get the Most out of Observations

Article excerpt

Banish the fear of judgement and enable collaborative development by following these four simple tips

Many lecturers seem to find lesson observation threatening. Yet if colleges and providers changed their approach, it could be seen as an opportunity. Take the following basic steps to maximise the benefits of the experience for all involved.

1 Separate development from appraisal

Depending on where you are within the education system, lesson observation may be linked to appraisal. There are reasons why this is so. For many, teaching or lecturing is the main part of their job, so it makes sense to ensure that these activities are progressing well.

Linking lesson observation to appraisal also makes logistical sense for management. However, it reduces the potential for the process to aid development. Rather than seeing observation as an end-of-year summative assessment, we should choose to regard it as formative. In this way, reviewing teaching can become the basis for future success.

2 Let the observed choose the observer

There are times when a reviewer and a lecturer simply do not get on well. This is something that management may choose to ignore or claim to be irrelevant. It might be convenient for the head of a subject to observe all lecturers within that subject. But this approach does not protect against the potential for prejudicial judgement.

The person being reviewed should have some say in who will observe them, and there should be no consequences resulting from any objection to a particular observer. Union representatives could play a part in ensuring that treatment continued to be fair after an objection was made.

Having a degree of influence over who observes your lesson is important. After all, sometimes managers may not be especially skilled as teachers, knowledgeable of education as a whole or knowledgeable in terms of the subject being taught.

It may aid the teaching process if two colleagues who work in a small lecturing group observe each other - although not always, as it could become too cosy.

3 Review the preparation

Those undertaking observation should not just come into the classroom cold, without prior discussion, or demand a lesson plan five minutes in advance of the session. We need to recognise that while lecturing normally takes place in the classroom, the teaching process begins much earlier. …

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