Thursday, 25 April 2013

Observations

I recently read this interesting article re. Teacher observations, discussing some of the pitfalls of observation processes, in the context of broader evaluation procedures.

Some food for thought for me, as this (watching teachers teach) is something that I value highly as a means for improving everyone's practice, but is perhaps an example of something that can have negative results if used in the wrong way, or for the wrong purposes...
For example, it is important for school leaders to be observing teachers in action on a regular basis, so they have credibility and can have informed discussions with teachers about teaching. We also need to be better at having teachers observe each other, exposing people to different ways and ideas, as well as building platforms for quality professional discussions.

However, like a lot of broad-brush, top-down mandates, observation processes that are rigid and focused upon compliance can end up crowding out professional engagement, instead becoming a chore that is - to quote the article - "viewed as something to check of (sic) the list of "to-do's" for the day".

So, any performance-related processes need to have observations of the practitioner in action as a significant component. We wouldn't judge or discuss the performance of a footballer without seeing them play... 
It is the purpose of teacher observation processes that needs to shift - from one that relies on potential punishments and external rewards (eg. performance pay initiatives.. ), to instead focusing upon helping and supporting teachers to improve their own capacity and to be better contributors to their school - tap into the internal desires to get better at what we do and to contribute to a shared goal with other people.

2 comments:

  1. I agree that the top down approach to Observations is flawed. Personally I can't see much value in an environment in which staff are observed by administrators (Principals and APs) only. Like you I highly value observing other educators as they practice, as I am sure many of us do.
    There could be great benefits from all our (NT) teachers engaging in Observations.

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    1. Agree fully. If they are only conducted by people in leadership positions, they can't help but have a sense of intrusiveness and 'checking up on'...

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