Personalised and meaningful: Improving lesson observation feedback

Charlotte Curl

Charlotte works for IRIS Connect, who has led the way in teacher focused video-based CPD in the UK. The rapidly growing cloud-based community now includes around 20,000 teachers in 900 schools all using video to reflect on, analyse and share teaching practice.

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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).

The answer, I expect, is an obvious one.

The focus of lesson observation is shifting away from observation for performance management, to observation as a powerful tool for professional development. This is a welcome change and one at the centre of many blogs and twitter conversations at the moment.

In order to effectively embed observation as a core part of continuing progress development (CPD), it's important to recognise its versatility. Developmental lesson observation is part of self-reflection (self-observation), coaching, mentoring, peer-observation and sharing within a community of practice; all of which require high quality feedback to increase their impact on classroom outcomes.

How can you move observation feedback away from a one-off summative judgements towards more formative, personalised and meaningful discussions that will have a real impact on classroom practice?

5 steps to improve your observation feedback:

1. Remember, as an observer you are not there to fix a problem, you are there to provide support to your colleague. Think of yourself as a servant coach, you're not there to make a judgement.

2. Be clear on the objectives of the observation. Ensure both you and the teacher you are observing are agreed on the objectives prior to the observation and remain focused on this throughout

3. Use video to capture the lesson. This reduces the impact of an in-class observer and allows discussion and feedback to be objective and contextualised

4. Look for and discuss ‘Specific Observable Behaviours’ – this will help to keep discussion focused around details rather than general behaviours

5. Identify next step for both you the observer and the colleague you're observing. Maybe you would like to swap roles to observe each other, or try in-ear coaching or even a different coach.

Thinking of lesson observations within the context of a development cycle is very useful - reflect, set targets, plan, implement, review and reflect. Within a cycle such as this, observations become an integral part of an iterative process of improvement.

How do you handle lesson observation feedback? Let us know below!

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