Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The reflective teacher - 30 day blogging challenge, day 3

Today's question theme is observation - choose one area of practice that you want to improve on.

This topic is fairly fresh in my mind, having gone through an Ofsted assessment earlier this year.  There are lots of areas I want to improve on if I'm honest.  I'm a reflective person by nature (as this blog testifies) and have the tendency as teachers often do, to be self-critical.  The brilliant Stephen Brookfield's Perfect 10 theory* (about how we focus on the one negative comment in a sea of excellent feedback) is an important reminder about how we should always seek out the positives and keep a sense of perspective.  I really believe that we need to keep in mind the fact that students (particularly adults) enter the classroom with experiences, situations, worries and fears that are a natural part of life, and affect their learning.  As teachers, we can't influence everything, so it is important to maintain a realistic outlook about what we can achieve in the little time we are with them.

This being said, of course we should seek out improvements and constantly work to improve our teaching practice.  I was paralysed with fear when Ofsted came to observe me and while the inspector's comments were positive and helpful, I prefer the relaxed and informal feedback given by critical friends and colleagues. The head teacher John Tomsett (@johntomsett) asks his staff the question 'How can I observe your lesson in a way which best helps you improve your practice?'  This shifts the focus from performance management to productive and constructive feedback, giving the responsibility and ownership of development back to the teacher.  For me, the answer might be 'Can you join in with the group activity on x, as I would like to get a sense of whether the students are really learning effectively?' or 'Can you come at the start of the lesson, as I would appreciate some ideas on how better to open it?' or 'Can you read through the feedback I'm giving student x, as I would like your views on to improve my assessment methods?'   Teachers generally have a good sense of where their practice needs extra work, so why not take advantage of this and help them where they need it most?

I also think that we don't actually observe each other enough.  You can learn so much from seeing other teachers (particularly in your subject specialism). Co-teaching with a colleague provided me with so much learning this year, and one of my aims for the coming term is to do more of this. Observation shouldn't be about fear but about growth - and learning, not just for the observed, but for the observer too.

*Brookfield S, (1995) Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher, Jossey-Bass

1 comment:

  1. Great and spot on - we've got a responsibility to influence the culture of fear which has built up (and I can see why) around observations. At the moment, the challenge seems to be, let's have no observations - throwing the baby out with the bathwater!