Assessing the Assessor – Lesson Observation

This is a fairly broad topic with a myriad of issues, such as the observer and observee’s attitudes towards having his/her lessons assessed. There is also the matter of how many times a teacher should be observed in a term, and when (before/after tests, two weeks after the first lesson, etc), having in mind the assessment factor.

Attitude

The attitude changes according to the observation purposes: development, (quick) problem-solving, assessment, etc.

When a teacher is being observed for developmental reasons, usually he or she tends to be more open to receiving an observer and feedback after, since the focus will be on growing professionally.
Sometimes, coordinators, supervisors and/or school owners have to observe a teacher in order to solve problems quickly, such as students being at the wrong level or having behavioural issues, bullying, etc.

When it comes to being observed due to assessment purposes – for instance,  checking if the steps of the lesson are being followed and the targets are being met, if the Institution’s standards are being achieved – teachers tend to be more defensive. In psychology defensive manoeuvres are said to be used when a person tends to ward off their experiencing an unwanted feeling or admitting responsibility for any actions taken.

The attitude also changes according to the person who is going to observe a lesson and his or her views regarding lesson observation. As teachers, we often discuss how to provide a learning environment, so I believe that, as assessors, we should do the same for our assessees.  

How many assessments in a term?

We tend to assess our students twice in a term, one in the middle of the course and one at the end of it, as to check if they have acquired the course aims. We tend to provide students with the time to consolidate and assimilate what has been taught or presented. Why not do the same for teachers? Especially if they are new at the profession or the Institution. There are a lot of terms, teaching techniques, methods and approaches, institution rules, and more, that teachers have to understand – sometimes learn – relate to their practices, put into practice and finally use that knowledge to develop. Thus, I believe that two lesson observations in a term is a good number for a developing, and in this case, assessing cycle.    

When?

Scrivener states that the beginning and end of a lesson are crucial moments, as they can go well or terribly wrong. They are moments where you set and revisit the lesson goals to make sure all students are on the same page. I will relate that same concept to the beginning and end of the term. Teachers have to get acquainted with the new group they are teaching. They have to establish a trust relationship and they have to understand the group’s needs, so as to meet them.

If a group has lessons twice a week, I would give it a month before assessing a teacher, in order to be able to provide constructive and thorough feedback. I would revisit that after a month and a half and set goals for the next term. Of course, this may present a lot of variants, such as time of experience, personality factors, the teacher’s or group’s needs, the Institution’s observations standards and much more.  

Reference:

Scrivener, J. (2012). Classroom Management Techniques. CUP.

Beatriz Solino de Francisco

Beatriz holds the Cambridge Train the Trainer and Mods II and III of the Delta. She has a Licentiate’s degree in English Language from PUC SP (2007). CPE level of proficiency and she has been teaching for 15 years. She has also been working as an Adults/Advanced courses Coordinator for 4 years at Cultura Inglesa Jundiaí. She is currently doing a Company Management MBA at FGV.

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