Classroom Observations

I thought it might be useful to revisit the PBAS Observation process and then share my experience with it this term.

Before discussing the process it is important for new staff or staff who have not undergone the process to understand that we do not have any specific classroom observation proforma at PBAS. We had discussed this initially when we first floated the idea of peer observations and the consensus was that a single proforma was restrictive. This allowed for flexibility for the observer with recording methods and did not force the teacher being observed into using a document that may not have suited their needs. Having said this I think that sharing observational proformas used by individual teachers and other sites could assist with structured observations. I am currently setting up a folder on the Admin drive that will hold a variety of proformas that could then be used or modified.  I will be encouraging all who have used a structured proforma to save it in this folder. This resource may then help form some discussion later this year or early next year around, “How are teachers recording observational data?” Joann Weckert recently shared the Eyre Partnerships model and I felt this looked really useful so have included it in the folder.

The PBAS Classroom Observation Process 

The Foundation Document

This document should be an integral part of the observational process. It allows teachers to see what is considered quality teaching. The document should be used as a starting point for professional discussions and classroom observations.

Peer observers

Observers should be people who are respected and trusted by their colleagues.

Pre observation meeting

The observer and the teacher need to agree to what it is that the observation is to be about. Consideration needs to be given to where this fits with TfEL, the Australian Professional Standards and School Priorities. Almost all things selected by teachers will fit into the Standards and TfEL in some way, i.e. A teacher may wish to focus on how they engage students in classroom conversations. This may involve the observer timing how long the teacher talks for, how often students contribute to the conversation and what questions does the teacher use to engage students in the conversation (this would cover TfEL 3.4 Promote dialogue as a means of learning and 3.3 of the Standards Using teaching strategies).

Observe the lesson and the learners

What are the students doing, saying (writing) and discussing? There should be no hidden agendas. Focus of the observation should be about improving student learning and not ranking/grading the teacher.

Immediate feedback

Immediately after the lesson discuss data that you collected briefly focusing on what really helped the student learning (if possible).

Follow up meeting

Both parties will meet after the observation preferably within 48 hours and discuss professional development ideas. Initially the meeting needs to provide specific feedback based on the original goals set prior to the observation. After this questions like, “How can I use the feedback to improve future lessons?”, “Where to now?”, “How will I get there?” and “When will my next observation occur?” are important to consider in terms of improving teacher quality.

My Experience This Term

This term I have approached Denise to observe two lessons initially. My R/1 PE class and my 9/10 Pastoral Care class. The 9/10 observation will not occur until week 9 but I have completed my first R/1 PE observation.

R/1 PE class – The focus for this observation (and observations to come) is how I provide feedback to students, how often and what types. The observation focus was on constructive, positive and negative feedback in relation to skill learning and behaviour. Denise kindly made up a proforma that would allow her to record this information. I will ask Denise to put this proforma in the folder that I mentioned earlier so that staff can also use or modify it to suit their purposes. Below is the completed document. The green highlights those I provided with constructive feedback while the orange highlights those I provided with no feedback during the lesson. My aim is for Denise to come in a number of times over the remainder of the year to complete the same proforma. Hopefully this will assist me with ensuring that I provide feedback to all students, particularly the constructive feedback. My intention is for the information to keep me focused on providing constructive feedback rather than too much negative/positive feedback.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Connecting students to the community

Graham Cox (Secondary AC officer) passed on the following resource. A site that allows you to connect your students to the community. Take your students outside the school, go on an excursion, broaden your students understanding of topics by using this site to plan a trip to Adelaide.

Outreach Education – Connecting with the community

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Outreach Education is a team of Department for Education and Child Development specialist teachers based in a number of public organisations.

We create quality learning experiences for early to senior years educators and students by bringing together curriculum requirements, effective teaching and learning techniques and the unique resources available at these sites:

  • Adelaide Botanic Garden
  • Adelaide Festival Centre
  • Adelaide Zoo
  • Art Gallery of South Australia
  • CSIRO Education
  • Law Courts
  • Migration Museum
  • Monarto Zoo
  • Parliament House
  • SA Water
  • South Australian Maritime Museum
  • South Australian Museum
  • Windmill Theatre”

All programs provided by this initiative are run by DECD specialist teachers who can assist classroom teachers on how their program fits with the Australian Curriculum and TfEL.

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Professional Reading from Twitter Part 2

Twitter app

Twitter continues to provide me with a range of thought provoking articles about education. Below are a couple that I would like to share with you.

Reading number 1

Blog: te@chthought

Blog post: 10 Ways To Be A More Reflective Teacher – The title says it all. if you are someone who already reflects strongly on their teaching or would like to read how others reflect then have a read of this article.

Posted on Twitter by @gcouros

Reading number 2

Blog: Connected Principals

Blog postKeeping The Heart Of An Educator - “What are some ways you stay motivated to treat others with dignity even when they don’t necessarily “deserve” it?”

Posted on Twitter by @neilringrose


At PBAS this term Jackie and Paul have introduced Coding into their classrooms challenging their students to think creatively, problem solve and work collaboratively. The resources they have available to them are the iPad apps Hopscotch, Kodable and Daisy the Dinosaur. The school also has a set of Bee Bots which allow simple directional coding.

Paul recently shared an article with me that he had read in the latest edition of Australian Educator (Spring 2014, issue 83) called Code Commanders. One of the resources in the article lead me to a site called Code. After having a quick play with the website I found it engaging and easy to use. As a resource for teaching coding I think it would be excellent. There is a student and teacher sign up process which allows the teacher to track progress over time. The site can be used without an account but any learning cannot be saved.

Below are screen shots from the site which explain what type of courses are available.

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Tutorials range from an hour in length (the beginner tutorials above) to courses 15-25 hours in length.

The new Digital Technologies Australian Curriculum requires aspects of coding to be taught and is an area of the curriculum that for a lot of teachers will be new. The Code site would be a great starting point for any teacher keen to develop their own knowledge about coding. It is also a great resource to form the basis of a coding program to deliver to students.

Communicating with parents

Communicating with parents is an important part of teaching. When students don’t complete homework, miss due dates or are not using class time effectively we will usually approach parents to inform them and discuss solutions. Often we do this after the problem has occurred. Implementing effective regular communication processes with parents may help avoid or minimise these problems.

The benefits of communicating regularly with parents are:

  • It allows for parents, students and teachers to be on the same page. Students will struggle with the, “I have no homework” statement when parents know what has been set for homework or when the next due date is coming up. Making expectations clear to parents is a way of avoiding potential future conflict between students, parents and teachers.
  • Parents want to know what is happening in their child’s classroom and appreciate the time and effort made to keep them informed.
  • Increased communication is more likely to see the teacher receive support from the parent if an issue arises with their child.

It is up to teachers to implement communication processes that are workable for both the teacher and the parents over the long term. Processes need to be sustainable and work simply and easily once in place.

Examples of traditional methods for communicating with parents include:

  • Notes home in diaries/communication books.
  • Formal letters
  • Phone calls
  • Face to face meetings

Examples of less common methods for communicating with parents include:

  • Emails (email groups)
  • Messaging (create parent group contacts on your phone)
  • Edmodo (teacher creates a class group and invites parents using a code)
  • Twitter (create a class hashtag)
  • Facebook (create a Group and invite parents to join)
  • Blog (use Edublogs to create a class blog)

My belief is that there is a place for all of the above forms of communication and depends entirely on the situation faced by the teacher. Having said that I cannot go past the second list for ease of of use to regularly (daily/weekly) communicate with parents (and students). Most teachers have used the methods on the first list to communicate with parents but these are time consuming and not as efficient for daily or weekly communication.

The four that I think are the most effective for constant regular communication are group emails, group txt messaging, Facebook and blogs.

1. Group email – Collecting everyones email may take some time and effort but once set up is an easy way to communicate important information quickly and easily. Attach images, documents and links.

2. Group txt messaging – Like emails, collecting phone numbers may take a little time and effort (although the school should have almost all parent mobile numbers). Set up a group contact for use at any time (our phones are always with us). This is a bonus as we often think of things we should have reminded students/parents when we are away from our work spaces or a computer.

3. Facebook – Setting up a Facebook Group that is open to all students/parents in your class or maybe a separate group for parents and students is an effective way to communicate. The benefit of Facebook is that most parents use it. Post information regularly about upcoming due dates, events, images, links and documents.

Below is a post and parent reply to my Facebook Group “PBAS HPE 7-10 Course Information”. This group is open to students and parents and currently has 28 members.

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4. Blogs – Set up a blog if you want to give parents a window into your classroom. This is a little more time consuming than Facebook/emails/messaging but can have a big impact on parents perception of you and what you do with their children at school.

Click on the image below to visit my Junior PE blog.

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With any form of communication that allows you to post information about children (blogs) or could considered intrusive by parents (sending txt messages, emails or Facebook Groups) it is important to send an explanation letter allowing parents to consider the pros and cons of the proposed system. They can then give their permission (or not) to be a part of the process. I still see great value in a Facebook or email group even without 100% participation by parents. Those that opt in will reap the benefits as will the teacher.

How is your professional learning going?

I don’t think that anyone disputes that to become better teachers we must engage in professional learning. How we go about engaging in that learning will have a significant impact on how effective that learning is. Some professional learning provides little support after the learning is completed while other professional learning allows for ongoing support. Below are some examples of types of professional learning. This list is not exhaustive but does provide a variety of types of professional learning:

  • Conferences
  • Workshops
  • Professional learning communities (face to face)
  • Professional learning communities (online including Twitter, Edmodo and Facebook)
  • Professional reading (education publications)
  • Professional reading (online including blogs, Twitter, education publications)
  • Classroom observations (peer to peer)
  • Student feedback
  • Visit another school

All of these forms of professional learning can be effective (assuming they are quality opportunities in the first place). Some provide more ongoing support than others which can impact on our ability to follow through with implementing real change in our teaching. However if we have a strong desire to change and develop our teaching then we will find a way regardless of the type of professional learning we have undertaken.

If, as I said at the start of the post, professional learning is so important it should not be seen as “the extra thing we need to do” or “the 60 hours we need to keep our registration”. It should be seen as a part of our job that is central to our role as educators.

So what is it that we could be doing over the remainder of this year to improve our teaching?

1. A lot of us have attend workshops and conferences this year i.e. Anne Baker and Dylan Wiliam. Trying to implement our learning from these events is ongoing and important. Can we use the next two things to help us determine how well this is going?

2. Classroom observations. As a teaching staff we agreed to have trusted peers come in and observe our teaching to provide feedback. How is this going? Personally I have not got there yet but have decided to stop procrastinating and get organised. Below is my information to Denise who will be observing 2 lessons over the next three weeks for me. Pick a time/class, a peer and a reason for your observation and jump in. 

  • Friday 22 August (week 5) – Lesson 2 9/10 Pastoral Care. Focus of observation is: Do I engage all students and levels of ability or are there students getting left behind?
  • Friday 5 September (week 7) – Lesson 3 R/1 PE. Focus for observation is: Do I provide feedback to students in relation to skills being developed and behaviour?

3. Student feedback. As a teaching staff we have discussed the use of student feedback and from year 5/6 up have had the opportunity to learn how to use the Compass TfEL survey tool. Have we implemented this with our students? My goal is to implement surveys for Domains 2,3 and 4 at the end of terms 1, 2 and 3. I will complete Domain 4 at the end of term 3 which will provide me with a range of feedback from my Year 9/10 class about my teaching.

The above three forms of professional learning should not be overwhelming. Don’t try to do to much with each of them.

1. Dylan Wiliam formative assessment – we all came away from this excited. Have we tried to implemented too much? Have we let it drop away? Have we embedded strategies or just tried a range of things without genuine persistence? Focus on one thing and do it well was Dyaln Wiliam’s advice to us.

My focus – develop feedback processes

2. Classroom observations – select one simple aspect of your teaching. Don’t be too broad. This will assist your observer and you in making real change in your classroom.

My focus – providing feedback and catering for all students

3. Student surveys – read your students surveys and highlight one or two items that are more common across the surveys. Again don’t try to take on everything, select one thing to focus on.

My focus (from feedback so far) providing students with some choice.

Remember that change takes time and commitment. Our professional learning should be continually evolving, not quickly but gradually over time.

Professional reading from Twitter

Twitter provides a great range of articles for teachers to read allowing for reflection on their own practice. Here are three that I have recently found. Click on the blog post name to view the article.

Reading number 1

Blog: Pinnacle – Trustworthy Advice On How to Excel In Education

Blog post: Principles of effective teaching. Teachers have the largest impact on their students’ results. This blog post is supported by the work of John Hattie, the author Shaun Killian outlines 10 key principles of effective teaching.

Posted on Twitter by @EmpiriEducator

Reading number 2

Blog: Life of an Educator by Dr. Justin Tarte

Blog post: 5 things to consider when designing a rubric. “The best intended rubric can become a limiting and disastrous tool when not used properly, and unfortunately I find more often than not they aren’t used effectively and properly.” This article may challenge your thinking about rubrics.

Posted on Twitter by @KleinErin

Reading number 3

Blog: Centre for Teaching Quality

Blog post: It’s Us Not Them: How Student Failure may Reflect On You. She was crying in the bathroom because she received another failing grade on a test. Melissa’s story is so important because it is the story of many of our students.” This post has a long introduction but the core of the post raises some great points for reflection about our own teaching. A thought provoking read.

Posted on Twitter by @MarzanoResearch


Promethean IWB Activote and Socrative – Student Response Systems

Promethean IWB ActiVote

Collecting feedback from students regularly (daily) and in a way that allows a teacher to see areas of weakness across a class or with individual students is important if we are to move student learning forward. At PBAS Paul has set up and is using the ActiVote devices with his Year 5/6 class to get feedback from the students about how well they have understood concepts he is teaching.

ActiVote Devices – The quote below has been taken from the Promethean website.

“With ActiVote, you won’t have to guess whether students truly grasp the lesson content. The entire class clicks to respond and answers are instantly viewed, shared and discussed on the ActivBoard in simple  formats, such as bar graphs and pie charts. Gain insight into student progress and use real-time feedback to determine whether you need to review, re-teach or proceed with the remainder of lesson. Students build confidence with every vote, while evaluating their own progress through both instant feedback and achievement records tallied over time.”

As with most technology understanding how it can be applied and setting it up so that it consistently works can prove challenging. Paul has had to persist and overcome a number of hurdles to get his ActiVote devices working but now that they are he is very pleased with the results. Having overcome the initial problems Paul has a set of ActiVote devices for his classroom set up so that each student knows their device and can quickly access it. Paul can display questions, the students can respond and the data can be displayed immediately in a number of formats (selected by Paul). The data can also easily be saved to an Excel document for further analysis.

One example Paul provided me with was his use of the ActiVote devices in a maths class. Students had covered a concept and Paul wanted to see what gaps in student knowledge remained. He designed a series of questions for the concept and had students provide their answers using the ActiVote devices. He found that for the majority of questions about 95% of the class understood. There were a number of questions however where 75% of the class struggled, providing Paul with an easy and quick way of seeing what needed to be revised. This use of the ActiVote devices is much more time efficient for Paul when compared with collecting up each students homework contract and marking all students attempts at similar maths problems to find out the same information. Obviously question design is critical when using these devices and multiple choice questions have their limitations so understanding and continuing to use other methods of formative assessment is also important.

The benefit to PBAS of Paul’s hard work getting his ActiVote devices up and running is that we now have a great resource to draw on if others wish to use the same technology. I know that Paul is currently working closely with Jackie and her 3/4 class to set up the devices in that room.

Below is an image of the Activote devices. Below the image is a video which is quite old now but will give you an idea of the ActiVote devices and how they work.




Socrative is an online student response system that is exceptionally easy to use if you have a access to the internet and students have access to a device (laptop, PC, iPad). At PBAS I see this as a great tool to use with the 9/10 class as they all have access to their MacBook. With the immediate access our Year 9/10 students have to MacBooks Socrative becomes a very effective formative feedback tool for teachers to use.

To set up Socrative the teacher needs to create an account (students do not need accounts) and once logged in can create quizzes and exit tickets (multiple choice, True/False and short answer options are available).

When the teacher is ready to give a quiz they get students to log in by going to, click on Student Log In and enter the teachers Room number (mine is 83286 which you can see in the image below). Once students are in they will see the quiz and can begin. As well as quizzes teachers can generate Quick Questions (instant feedback on something just discussed) or Exit Tickets (answer prior to leaving the room).

Teachers can also choose what type of quiz they want students to undertake. Options include Student Paced with immediate feedback – students will see the correct answer or teacher explanation straight after answering the question, Teacher Paced – teacher controls the flow of questions.

Socrative allows the teacher to turn a quiz into a game called Space Race. The teacher can choose the number of teams, auto assign or have students pick colors, then student paced answering of questions determines how “fast” each spaceship proceeds.

See the video at the bottom of the post for further explanation of how Socrative works. The video gives a example of the teacher and student devices working side by side showing what is happening on each.

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Curriculum Resources – Australian Curriculum

Below are websites that provide units of work, or resources for planning units of work linked to the Australian Curriculum.

English and the Australian Curriculum - English for the Australian Curriculum

This resource is a national initiative to support the teaching and learning of English and literacy from Foundation to Year 10, produced in partnership with Education Services Australia and the joint associations of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English, the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association and the Primary English Teaching Association Australia, representing more than 10,000 teachers of English.

Maths and the Australian Curriculum - Top drawer teachers

Big ideas The big ideas that underpin the mathematics are explored and explained.
Misunderstandings Some common misunderstandings and their causes are described and analysed. There is teaching advice, and activities, designed to avoid or correct these misunderstandings.
Good teaching Key content is explained thoroughly. There are suggested teaching approaches and many suitable activities. You will find videos, slide presentations, worksheets, digital learning objects and more.
Assessment Aspects of assessment are discussed.
Activities Student activities that appear in other parts of the drawer have been collected here. However, many of the pages contain further suggestions and ideas for other activities.
Downloads All downloadable files, such as student worksheets, teacher notes, activity templates and video transcripts, are available here.

Science and the Australian Curriculum - Science Web Australia

The Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) in partnership with Education Services Australia (ESA) has prepared 15 units of work to support teachers in the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Science as part of the Supporting the Australian Curriculum Online (SACOL). The units are designed for students in years F–10.

These units have been written by experienced teachers using resources that are available online. Each unit consists of an overview, five lesson plans, and additional links and resources.

Information for teachers on developing programs in Science for gifted and talented students is provided by Australian Science Innovations. This is supported by the inclusion of extension activities for gifted and talented secondary students for the units in years 7–10.

History and the Australian Curriculum - AC History Units

AC History Units presents 8 units developed by the History Teachers’ Association of Australia to support teachers in the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: History.

Geography and the Australian Curriculum - GeogSpace

GeogSpace offers quality primary and secondary geography resource materials for all teachers of geography, including those that are very experienced and those just commencing their involvement. The materials will support teachers to develop their knowledge, skills and pedagogical capacity to teach geography of the highest quality.

Arts and the Australian Curriculum 1 - Arts Pop

There are five art forms specified in the Shape of the Australian Curriculum: The Arts. They are DanceDramaMedia ArtsMusic, and Visual Arts. Arts-POP shows how each art form makes a distinct contribution to cognition by drawing on each child’s senses and imagination. Each art form is valued equally within the generic learning area of the arts.

Arts and the Australian Curriculum 2 - The Arts Live

This interactive web application to facilitate collaboration and innovation across all five art forms in your classroom. Regardless of your existing skills and knowledge, ARTS:LIVE provides extensive cross-curricular content, with sequential instructions to bring the arts alive.

Digital Technologies and the Australian Curriculum – CSER Digital Technologies

This course will explain the fundamentals of digital technology and computational thinking specifically addressing learning objectives of the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum (Foundation-6). Come learn about how digital technology can be integrated into your classroom, exploring example lesson plans, and helping form a community designed to share resources and support.

Australian Curriculum Lessons – English, Maths, Science, History and The Arts all covered

Australian Curriculum Lessons is a site designed for educators in Australia. A user-submitted site who depend on teachers to post their great lessons so that other teachers can get ideas and lessons to use in the classroom.

The aim is to create one of the largest curriculum-linked lesson sites that values innovation and excellence in the teaching profession. A site that also allows teachers to show off their skills in planning lessons and creating wonderful learning experiences for students in Australia and the rest of the world.

More Resources

For a wider range of resources for all subject areas (some linked to the AC and some not) go to the top of the blog and click on the curriculum area page you would like to see resources for.

Formative Assessment Reflection

I hope that staff were able to get something out of this weeks staff meeting, being able to reflect where they are at with developing formative assessment techniques with students. It is important to remember that formative assessment is something we have been doing our whole teaching careers. It is not so much about implementing something new but building on what we have always done – moving student learning forward.

As we all took the time to reflect this week I thought it was important to provide you with resources that explain some of the formative assessment techniques that teachers have discussed in their plans along with a few that teachers may not be as familiar with. The Teach. Learn. Grow. The education blog  is where I have sourced the links below. This blog is part of NWEA – “Founded nearly 40 years ago, NWEA is a global not-for-profit educational services organization known for our flagship interim assessment, Measures of Academic Progress® (MAP®). Educators trust our assessments, professional development offerings, and research to help advance all students along their learning path.” It is my understanding that this group has worked closely with Dylan Wiliam in the past.

I have also created a Formative Assessment page for the blog which also contains the links below as well as some other formative assessment resources. Go to the top of the blog and click on the Formative assessment page to have a look.

Each article is short and concise and provides insight into the technique and its value.

Visit the following two blog posts “22 Easy Formative Assessment Techniques for Measuring Student Learning” and “10 Assessments You Can Perform In 90 Seconds”.

Techniques in the posts include:

The Popsicle Stick, The Exit Ticket, The Whiteboard, Corners, Think-Pair, Share, Two Stars and a Wish, Carrousel Brainstorming, Jigsaw, ABCD Cards, Basketball Discussions, Student Centered Learning Strategies – Two Ideas for Providing Feedback

New clothes, Do’s and Dont’s, Three most common misunderstandings, Yes No chart, Three questions, Explain what matters, Big picture, Venn diagram, Draw it and Self directed response.