Active Observation

For Mentors to Share | Supporting Mentoring

By the time they leave school, the ‘average’ student in Aotearoa has spent 14,000 hours observing teachers. As a result, most of us begin our teacher education with a sense that we know what teaching is and what it entails, (Lortie, 1975). This can have an impact on how we approach further observation of teaching.

In previous encounters, your observations of teachers will have been focused on accessing content knowledge or skills. Few students will have considered what has occurred prior to teaching, the pedagogical decisions the teacher has made throughout the lesson, or what occurs following teaching. But now you are a student of teaching. Time spent observing will have the most impact on your developing practice, if you actively look below the surface and reflect on your associate teacher’s thinking. 

Getting below the surface of observing ‘what is happening’ and taking time to reflect on the pedagogical choices the teacher is making throughout the lesson (as well as before and after) is what will make your time spent observing truly valuable.

It might also be helpful to refer to the Pātaka post: Learning Conversations.

RESOURCES

For further discussion of effective observation, refer to the course readings – Chapter 4 – Observations in Success in Professional Experience: Building Relationships in Educational Settings (Dyson et al, 2018) and also Redondo’s chapter that focuses on maximising learning from classroom observation.

Also, this resource on observation from Ako, Aotearoa includes a Teaching Observations Feedback Form (pp.4-5) that provides a thought-provoking framework – consider using it for some of your observations of your associate teacher.

Referencing

Dyson, P., Plunkett, M., & McCluskey, K. (2018). Observations. In M. Dyson, M. Plunkett, & K. McCluskry (Eds.), Success in professional experience: Building relationships in educational settings (2nd ed., pp. 49-64). Cambridge University Press.

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: a sociological study. University of Chicago Press.

Redondo, A. (2016). Reading classrooms: How to maximise learning from classroom observation. In S. Capel, M. Leask, & T. Turner (Eds.), Learning to teach in the secondary school (7th ed., pp. 89-107). Routledge.

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