Classroom Observation Strategies: Peer Observation
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Classroom Observation Strategies: Peer Observation

Peer observation at Ipswich Girls’ Grammar
School is the process whereby a teacher arranges to come in and spend some time in the classroom
of another teacher looking at the strategies that are used within the class. We have a
specific focus in that we’re looking at lesson structure and particularly the articulation
of lesson objective. When we started our quality teaching project, the first thing we did was
quite an extensive literature review, and it was very clear from the literature that
peer observation was one of the best strategies for professional development that we could
provide for our staff. The teachers would have a short meeting before the lesson, where
they talk about what’s going to happen in the lesson, what the objective is going to
be and how the lesson is going to flow. Well, this is a grade 5 class, and our lesson today is teaching the children about how words are used by authors and readers to take meaning
from different texts. I’m really keen to see how you explicitly give your objective
to the class and also your anticipatory set. That’s something that I really want to focus
on in my teaching. So class, today’s lesson, as you know, is about teaching and understanding
tone and mood. The teacher who’s doing the observing goes in. He or she will have a little
worksheet that they fill out. We call our peer observation’s VOTs, which is Visit
Other Teachers each term. And so the teacher is looking at VOT did I see, VOT did I learn,
VOT can I do to improve my own teaching as a result of what I’ve seen. As we spoke
about before the lesson, I was really keen to look at how you stated the objectives to
the students and also the anticipatory set that you used. The anticipatory set, which
was something that I was really interested in, was fabulous. The use of multimedia engaged
the students straight away. The images that were used were fabulous. They were targeted
right at the students’ level. They were laughing along with the clips. They were really
interested in the images that were being shown. And certainly, it introduced the lesson on
tone and mood really well. Do you think you could use this sort of thing in home economics?
Absolutely. While I was watching your lesson, I was thinking that, how could I use this
in my subject area, and I was thinking that the use of images would be perfect, particularly
when we’re doing a practical lesson. If we were making something like cupcakes, then
I could show them some clips from Masterchef or Cake Boss showing them the production,
showing them the end product so they see what they’re going to be doing in that lesson in
short, sharp grabs so their attention’s gained straight away. The response from teachers
to peer observation has been very positive. I think as they’ve undertaken the observations,
they’ve realised that this is a way that they really can pick up some new ideas, some new
strategies, some different approaches. And it gives them an opportunity to actually see
what happens in someone else’s classroom. So that’s been very positive. It’s been
fantastic, particularly for my own teaching. I’ve really been able to get some new teaching
methodologies that maybe I’d had a few years ago that I’d forgotten to use. It’s that
real cross-fertilisation of looking at what someone else does and what they have success
with and then being able to implement that into your own classroom. Implementing peer
observations are challenging for all parties. Initially, teachers may feel hesitant about
having somebody else in their classroom. Sometimes you can feel a little bit embarrassed. And
just having an understanding that they’re there not necessarily to judge you but to
watch what you do and take things from it in a positive way has certainly helped people
to overcome that fear or that concern about the agenda behind it all. I think one of the
most interesting things that we’ve learned is that teachers have so much to learn from
one another, not just within their narrow subject areas or year levels but from across
the school. It’s been a great way for us to showcase what we’re doing as a school
to improve the quality of our teachers and our teaching. Peer observation changes the
way I think about teaching by encouraging me to reflect more on my own practice and
making sure that I am covering the steps that the quality teaching teams have shown us work
better for student learning.

About James Carlton

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