As a training specialist, I enter the virtual classrooms of K-12 teachers each day. The teachers observed have a proven online curriculum and tech tools to support online learning. Yet, there are still areas of weakness that trend across schools and regions. Here are the 6 things I have learned from observing classrooms each day.
No teachers like being observed when they are teaching; when it comes to schools positioning cameras in classrooms for lesson observations, teachers naturally feel in the spotlight and under pressure. Assessing children is one thing, but while all teachers want professional development, no one is comfortable being reviewed and assessed themselves.
Which of the following is more likely to improve the quality of teaching and learning in your school:
a) Observing a whole lesson or part of a lesson, feeding back with a judgement on the quality of teaching and learning. ‘Outstanding’, ‘good’ or ‘requires improvement’.
b) Observing a lesson or part of a lesson as part of a professional development cycle with built in feedback (and no-grades).
There is an art to observing lessons, just as there is an art to teaching them. Observing and evaluating the effects and impact of teaching requires particular skills that in many cases need to be developed through practice.
Performed well, lesson observation can be a hugely empowering process that gives recognition to the unique skill set required for highly effective teaching. Undertaken poorly, it could cause a dent in teachers' motivation.
The advice below supports a natural approach to observation, which appreciates that there is a story behind every lesson that links the teaching with pupils’ responses to the lesson and the progress that this is giving rise to.