This week I had the opportunity to observe Teachers around my school for their practice. It was an enriching experience and I looked at how observation can differ in purpose.
There are different purposes of observation. To name a few could be:
- To Evaluate Teaching- This is when a supervisor comes to a class and evaluates how effective the teacher was in the delivery of her lessons.
- Learning to Teach- This observation is done by teachers who are inexperienced and are learning to pick up the tricks of the trade.
- Learning to observe – This is when an observer visits classrooms to learn to collect, analyse and interpret descriptions of teaching.
- The Fourth purpose is to collect data for research purposes.
- The fifth purpose is when a teacher observes to become more self aware of her own practice.
I have participated in all types of observations during my career. I have been modeling for PRT’s (Provisionally Registered Teachers) and peers in my team and school. I have collected data for presentations and other purposes. But the one that I enjoy the most is when I am learning to observe to explore my practice. To do this, I take permission before I step into anyone’s classroom or they may invite me to their class for a great lesson that they have planned for. It is totally nonjudgmental and as I watch, I start reflecting on my own teaching. During the process I become more aware of my practice. It is to construct and re-construct my knowledge of teaching and critically evaluate my teaching attitudes, beliefs and classroom practice. I totally believe in this nonjudgmental way of observation because the more we observe, the more confident we become to make our own informed teaching decisions. Such observations help me explore my communication with the students. What do I ‘miss’ and what do I ‘hit’. There are always some ‘hits’ and some ‘misses’. The idea is to work on what is ‘missed’ to enhance my practice.
Different people observe different things. One may focus on the non-verbal behavior of students, another would observe the questioning techniques and yet another could focus on how students worked in a group. As our observations are so selective, it is a good idea to always make a decision about an aspect that will be observed. This way we can give a descriptive feedback to teachers on the aspect that was observed. It also helps us to be more systematic in our observations.
Nonjudgmental descriptive observation of other teachers is a way to explore our own teaching. It is a great tool to reflect and capture what we do and what we can subtly add into our delivery of lessons so that our lessons become more effective and clear for our students.