They will be developing their professional status, which is a nebulous way of saying “Do they look, sound and act as a teacher in all professional arenas?”
- Are they ordered and organised?
- Can they arrange classroom space and resources to allow ease of movement and access?
- Can they get ideas across, manage transition, support learners with appropriately challenging, interesting tasks and engage with the developing lesson, giving appropriate, supportive feedback at the right time and expect learners to address this?
- Do they give written feedback through their marking of work and are records supportive of decision making?
Entering this “hot potato” arena, as I start a new round of ITT observations, might seem a little perverse. There have been a few recent bloggers sharing the horror stories of when observations appear to go awry and the insights into the uses being made of observation are useful. As reported, there are significant negative decisions being made on what come across as miniscule issues. The current TV programme Tough Young Teachers is providing interesting insights, of a more global nature, but we are really watching a variation of students in training.
Everyone wants teachers to be operating at the highest possible level. I am sure that many teachers feel that they are only as good as the last performance, which puts teaching on the same plane as an actor, with elation or deflation the personal outcome. Teachers are, in my experience, very self-critical people, who want to get it right every time.
I’ll start by summarising my overview of teaching and learning; know the learners, know your stuff and get it across effectively, appropriately challenging follow up activities, engage with the learners in lesson, fine tune to need, check progress during and afterwards.
I am aware that the thoughts as a (sort of) (currently disliked?) “professional observer” may appear distant, but the insights might be useful.
What is the purpose of the observation? Developmental or judgemental? How will the outcomes be used?
In my case, I have dual role to fulfil; is the student showing competence as a teacher and at what level, and where are the areas for coaching to improve future practice?
Criteria for the observation need to be clear to all participants.
Is the observation based on the collective, school interpretation of the Teacher Standards 2012- outline in essence above? Is there a set of well-articulated expectations that has been shared extensively and is well understood by all participants?
A number of the Teaching Standards have an equal amount of evidence outside as well as within the lesson.
For example professionalism is a broad category, including the notion of being a self-developer, keeping abreast of curriculum and other developments. Equally, subject knowledge should have a breadth of evidence. Progress and outcomes need to be explored over time and through a variety of means, such as moderation of books.
A teacher’s plans will show order and organisation, over time, embed the selection of subject knowledge and give a flavour of the lesson to be observed.
By this point, any experienced observer will have “ticked off” a range of the standards, as a preparatory activity and be able to concentrate on the visual evidence of the unfolding lesson.
Pre-armed with the plans (standard 4) embedding expectations (standard 6), the observer will be able to develop an insight into relationships, the teacher status and the ease with which the teacher expectations are able to be articulated, if necessary. Is the classroom ready for learning to happen from the beginning? (Standards 7, 8 and 1.)
Getting the ideas across, with appropriately selected resources, is likely to be a major part of the initial stages of the lesson, sometimes with break-away groups where prior assessment suggests that some do not need that information. (Standards 6 & 3) The quality of discourse, questioning and follow up to clarify any misconceptions can be evidenced.
Transitions are further evidence of effective behaviour management, (standard 7).
The most significant evidence within the lesson will be the interactions and engagement within the lesson, of Assessment for Learning, aka thinking on your feet, and making adaptations to identified need. These two standards (6 and 5) are evidenced by more personalised questioning, support and in-lesson feedback, based on learner needs. At this point, the needs of the broad range of learners can be addressed. Notes on plans should have alerted the teacher (and observer) to prompted action, such as x and y might not “get this”. Spotting a child “not getting it” and doing something about it is likely to result in a positive outcome.
To not spot is potential for questions to be raised.
Or even more succinctly; analyse-plan-do-review-record….
Teaching is thinking about learner needs, before, during and after the lesson.