The Idea of Classroom Observations

Classroom observations were invented long time ago after inception of schools. Since the students had things to measure their performance such as tests and examinations, these inspections for teachers were developed for a similar purpose. It is different because an administrator joins the rest of the students during an ongoing lesson so as to observe the way this particular teacher.

These observation assignments are designed to help you have a more productive learning experience when you do your 30-40 hours of observations. I would hope that you will all get a chance to help out in class – take attendance, work with small groups of students, grade some student work, perhaps help out with a lab or lesson. In addition to any teaching opportunities you might have, I also want you to do some focused observations. That is the point of this assignment.

In addition to the types of assignments listed here, you will also have a checklist of “typical activities” that you need to complete in the schools. Remember that you will be evaluated by the teacher(s) you visit so be sure to spend several class periods with a single teacher.

You will also be writing 3 vignettes about what you see in the classroom. My goal with those assignments is to get you to focus on issues of concern to you. The assignment also helps you reflect upon what you see in the classroom. A full description of this is in the packet handed out in class.

Classroom teaching is a complex enterprise, with a very large number of interacting variables at play. Because of this, classroom observation becomes highly challenging.

The first thing you have to do — if you are going to avoid the trap of dealing only in vague generalities (“nice lesson”, “it went smoothly”, and such) — is acknowledge that complexity. The next step is to realize that you will have to isolate one or two variables (at most) and focus primarily on these. During another observation you can always focus your attention on a different subset of variables.

With that in mind, here are some of the kinds of things one might look for in a classroom observation: (Please note due dates for these observations on the syllabus.You do not have to complete each of these – some are assigned and others are ‘free choice’. We will use data you collect during your observations in class.)

Your classroom observation log will have several components. The main portion of your note taking is personal. This part of the log will not be turned in. You will have several assignments that will be turned in. Directions and rationale for observation assignments are found in the course pack.

An Introduction into Lesson Observation

Lesson observation is not as daunting as it may seem. The most important thing is to make sure the feedback you get is both honest and constructive. It should be geared towards helping you improve as a teacher and not to put you down. The process is partly an interaction between the observed and the observer and preparation for this.

Lesson observation has a longstanding tradition in the assessment and development of new and experienced teachers in England. Over the last two decades it has progressively emerged as an important tool for measuring and improving professional practice in schools and colleges.

This article reviews literature across the three education sectors (i.e. schools, further education and higher education) in order to compare and contrast the role of observation. In doing so it discusses the key themes and issues surrounding its use in each sector and identifies common and contrasting patterns. It argues that in schools and further education, observation has become increasingly associated with performance management systems; a dominant yet contested model has emerged that relies on a simplified rating scale to grade professional competence and performance, although the recent introduction of ‘lesson study’ in schools appears to offer an alternative to such practice.

In higher education, however, there is limited evidence of observation being linked to the summative assessment of staff, with preferred models being peer-directed and less prescribed, allowing lecturers greater autonomy and control over its use and the opportunity to explore its potential as a means of stimulating critical reflection and professional dialogue about practice among peers.