…can be sometimes stressful, especially when the observation is graded. Here are some suggestions to try to lessen the stress involved, and to maximise the benefit for you and for your learners.
Teaching observations often have more than one purpose, both for the College, and for the person being observed, and can provide different benefits.
The benefits for the College’s include:
An annual overview of teaching and learning standards across the full range of its provision, including full-time, part-time, outreach and on-campus courses, at all levels.
« The opportunity to check the quality of learners’ experiences in the classroom.
« The gathering of information about areas or issues that can inform staff training and development activity.
« The opportunity to highlight good practice.
« The collection of information for Ofsted inspections.
Benefits for the tutor being observed include:
« The opportunity to practice being observed and graded.
« A chance to demonstrate your best practice, or to try out something new and to receive feedback.
« An opportunity to learn more about what you do well, as well as to receive ideas or guidance about ways to develop.
« A valuable opportunity to discuss teaching and learning in your own specific context with a colleague who has time to focus on you, your teaching and your students’ learning.
Before an observation
If it’s your first observation for the College you may like to ask to see the paperwork used, just to familiarise yourself with the format. (The forms are changed sometimes, so you could also ask if there have been any updates).
It’s worth considering whether there is anything for which you would like specific feedback – for example, you may want to know how well you handled a discussion or whether your PowerPoint presentation worked in the way you hoped it would, or you may be trying something out for the first time. If you do want feedback on specific things, let your observer know. Check to see if you had any suggestions or action points from previous observations, as your observer will be looking at these issues, too.
Have copies of your session plan, register and teaching materials ready and waiting. Remember, your observer will only be in your session for between 45minutes and an hour, so if there is something you really want them to see, you may need to adjust your timings.
During the observation
Accept that you may feel a little nervous, but try not to let nerves overwhelm you. Once you have briefly introduced your observer to your students, try to focus instead on the session and your students’ learning and behave as you normally would.
After the observation
It’s not always possible to schedule observations so that feedback can be given straightaway. If there is a delay, you might find it useful to jot down your own thoughts about the session, and any questions you may have for your observer.
When it is time for feedback, try to focus on what you can learn from being observed. (Not many professions have the opportunity to receive individualized feedback about their practice in this way.) Check your body language – if your arms are folded and your legs in a tight knot, you are probably feeling defensive.
The observer may ask you first to say how you thought the session went. This isn’t a trick question. Depending on the observer, you may also be asked further questions. Again, the idea is to give you the chance to reflect and share your thoughts before receiving feedback.
Listen to what the observer has to say first. When the observer has finished, think about the positive things that have been said. If you have any questions about these, ask them first. Then, if there are any negatives, or points for development with which you disagree, or any you don’t understand, ask for clarification, or for examples. It can help to take notes to look at afterwards. Bear in mind that an observer may suggest alternative approaches, even when a session is outstanding, because this is what sharing good practice is all about.
Following your feedback, think about how to follow up any points through your CPD for the coming year. Observing someone else’s teaching can be an excellent way of developing your practice. Alternatively, you may want to request some training, or you may be able to find what you need in some of the resources in Northern College’s LLRC. There is also a wide range of high quality resources on the internet – for some examples, see below:
Geoff Petty’s website. Wide range of practical tools for improving practice.
Huge database of resources around teaching and learning
Some examples of Stephen Brookfield’s writing.
Free access to some of activist-teacher Michaels Newman’s writing. http://www.michaelnewman.info/