The most distinctive of these very good teachers is that their practice is the result of careful reflection . . . They themselves learn lessons each time they teach, evaluating what they do and using these self-critical evaluations to adjust what they do next time.
(Why Colleges Succeed, Ofsted 2004, para. 19)
Introduction of Classroom Observation
During my first Middle Management meeting I experienced a feeling of dread when hearing the word ‘observation’. On the whole, there was nervousness in the atmosphere and immediately I had a sensation of worthlessness as I looked around the room at more experienced teachers. Unfortunately, the word ‘observation’ ...view middle of the document...
I have found trust and respect to be the key feature in the relationship between the observer and the observed. This point is reinforced by O’Leary who states that ‘the true test of peer observation fundamentally depends upon the relationship between colleagues and the respect and trust they have for one another (2014).
Classroom observation as a reflective process
I have learnt that the importance of observation is to reflect on teaching practice and improve standards. I have learnt that the importance of observation is the opportunity to develop as a reflective practitioner, the impact of this is improved teaching and learner outcomes. Hammersley-Fletcher & Orsmond (2005) share the same opinion and write ‘reflective practice sustains life-long learning and how peer observation is a channel for engaging in reflective practice.’ Sullivan et al (2012) also found that ‘peer observation promoted reflection, providing participants with the opportunity to think critically about their teaching practice’. It is through reflection that we are able to gain an awareness of how we teach and ‘observation of and by others can be the basis of some of the most useful professional reflection you can undertake in order to improve performance’ (Armitage et al 2003).
Past experiences as a student or NQT, expecting an hour of teaching to be a pass or fail, or even assuming that reflecting is just to find faults and not thinking about the whole process is to blame for apprehensive feelings towards observation. Reading also shows that observation is strongly linked to critical reflection. The aim of the process should be to ‘make realistic improvements’ (Lambeth CYPS, 2007) and should also be seen as an ongoing process.
When I think of critical reflection I think about much more than just my teaching and it is ‘difficult to engage in critical thinking on an individual process. The role of the observer in promoting reflection is critical’ (Peel 2005). I think as an outsider to identify what it is I want to change to create a better learning experience for my pupils. It has also been said that reflection is ‘a way of helping practitioners to better understand what they know and do as they develop their knowledge of practice through reconsidering what they learn in practice’ Loughran (2002). This module has made me understand the true purpose of reflection and giving and receiving constructive criticism. The first author who explained the concept of ‘Critical Reflection’ was Schon (1983) who defined reflection as ‘thinking about what we are thinking, acting upon rather than reaction to a stimulus.’ Peer observation allows teachers to watch other styles and strategies in order for critical reflection of their own teaching. I believe it helps maintain and improve standards by sharing good practice by exchanging views and providing opportunities for teachers to learn about new or different teaching styles.
Although I can see many positive elements to peer...