Teachers play an important role in today?s society, as they work hard to train the minds of the future. How can we know as parents and even teachers whether or not the needed skills are being developed? With almost any job or career that one would embark on, a level of training and observation is needed. Even jobs that a student may take during a summer break from school require some level of training and observation. The observation of ones teaching practice and skills as a teacher are equally if not more crucial. Even though the benefits seem to be obvious there is also a dark side to the practice of observing other teachers.
Peer observation may be used by an institution as part of its quality assurance procedures. In this model, teachers are asked to assess and report formally on the performance of their colleagues according to criteria set out by the institution. Observation reports form part of the ongoing evaluation of the teacher&acute;s performance and may influence decisions on promotion or tenure. In this type of setting we equate teaching observation as an evaluation of performance or capabilities. Evaluations are a necessary evil within all professions. Even though schools love to help students learn and see them development into productive citizens in society, the money does not fall from the sky, someone has to pay for all this especially if the staff hopes to continue to be paid. Many people under this type of scrutiny just cave in, even though they may be very good at what they do. If the boss is doing the evaluation we understand and can accept it. But what happens with the observation is done by a peer who has been deemed by the school to be a ?good? teacher. There can be major problems with this model. A good teacher is not necessarily a good appraiser. Unless there are very clear guidelines for the observations, supported by appropriate training for all involved, observers may record subjective and unsubstantiated judgements on their peers. These judgements may unfairly influence the institution against the teacher. This can lead to a deterioration in peer relationships. Despite these drawbacks, some American universities use peer observation as part of their quality assurance procedures.
What though should be the focus or purpose of observed teaching practice? Summed up in a matter of two words ? teacher development. When observation is done with the goal of aiding teacher development the results are positive and impressive. The model favored by academic institutions in the UK focuses on the professional development of the observing and observed teachers, while at the same time ensuring that the institution remains uninvolved and uninformed about the outcome of the observation and the issues discussed.
I was able to witness firsthand how observed teaching practice is truly beneficial, while attending the TEFL course in Phuket, Thailand. Not only where there two sessions specifically for observing experienced teachers with the idea of providing feedback and learning, there were several occasions while being instructed that I was able to witness firsthand the truthfulness of what was being taught. I observed how problems were dealt with and how questions that took the teacher off target were handle, providing me with an example to imitate in my teaching career.
There are two sides to teacher observation; 1) observing and 2) being observed. For me the second was by far the most beneficial. Looking in the mirror is hard and sometimes we may even refuse to do it for fear of what we may see, the flaws. But while being observed the approach that was taken is what are your strengths and how you can improve them along with adding other qualities that would enhance your teaching. The key to the whole exercise is to see the areas of strength and continue and notice the deficiencies and improve.
No one is a perfect teacher ? if there is such a thing ? so the room for improvement is never full. A good teacher is always becoming a better teacher. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to observe other teachers. Watch those you have heard are "good" teachers. And look to learn from other experienced teachers. By doing this the true beauty of teacher observation can be seen.
??Peer observation? Graham White, Principal of Eastbourne School of English
??Teachers Observing Teachers? by Susan Chernilo Originally published in: Field Notes, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Spring 2006) Publisher: SABES/World Education, Boston, MA, Copyright 2006.
??Observing other teachers? LEARN North Carolina | http://www.learnnc.org
Author: Darryl Brewster
Date of post: 2006-11-20