The culture of classroom observation, teacher feedback and discussions is more frequent in language schools than in private and public schools. Teachers are not used to having other people in their class other than their students. Classrooms are teacher’s private space, their small world to manage.
When we think of classroom observation, the first thing that comes to our mind is classroom performance. Evaluating the teacher. Coordinators inside the classroom. However, more and more schools are using classroom observation as a form of professional development to improve teaching practices and student performance. This time, no coordinators or principles can be seen sitting in the classrooms, only colleagues.
Classroom observation in schools is usually frowned upon. Teachers do not feel comfortable and are under the impression they are been watched and criticized. When teachers enter their own classrooms and close the door, the classroom becomes their own small hidden secret niche.
It is time to open up our classrooms and share all the great practices that are going on inside them.
What is peer observation?
Peer observation is having a colleague come into your class and observe your practice and exchange ideas.
It builds a collaborative and trust culture inside the school.
Why is peer observation important?
“The most positive benefit of teacher-to-teacher observation is that it makes teaching a public rather than a private act." Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward.
We need to change the concept that teaching is a private act. Sharing, exchanging ideas, watching other colleagues' practice can help teachers handle not only behaviour problems, but also opportunities to share successful teaching practices with peers.
In order for the teachers observing teachers practice to actually work and have a positive outcome, some primary aspects need to be taken into account:
• Teachers need to have some level of trust. Both sides need to understand that the reason to observe each other is to help and not scrutinize.
• Reasons to observe must be clear. Teachers should be observing student’s behaviour, different skills applied in order for students to achieve learning objectives, teacher/student interaction, resources used by the teacher, etc.
• Most important of all, there must be a discussion moment after the observation and then, a reflection upon the observer’s own practice.
What are the benefits?
• Gives teachers an opportunity to learn from each other in a non-threatening environment.
• There is a growing atmosphere of trust between teachers inside the school.
• Teachers will begin to share ideas and suggestions openly and constructively.
• Helps less experienced teachers to develop their practice.
• It is a powerful tool for professional development.
• Teaches teachers to work collaboratively.
• Observers acknowledge different classroom management skills and different approaches that can lead to the achievement of the same goals.
Peer observation provides the teaching staff with an opportunity to reflect on and improve their teaching practices. It promotes supportive teaching relationships, collaborative work and enhances student’s learning.
I would definitely encourage you to put this into practice in your school.