Follow Up: Week 1 Term 3 Classroom Observations & Student Feedback Reflection

I hope that teachers found last weeks staff meeting time useful to reflect on their practice around classroom observations and student feedback. Thank you to teaching staff who emailed their reflections and goal for term 4 back to their line managers. Line managers will email a response back offering suggestions and support to help you to achieve your term 4 goal. Some teachers also took the time to comment on the post Got feedback Used Feedback which helped initiate the reflection that we did. At the time of writing there were 10 comments linked to this post from 5 staff sharing their thoughts and actions in the area of classroom observations and student feedback. If you would like to read or join that conversation click here.

The purpose of this post is to reinforce the importance of this area of our professional development by sharing a video put out by AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership).

The video is an interview between former AITSL Chair Tony Mackay and Ben Jensen (Program Director, School of Education, Gratton Institute) discussing teacher appraisal and sources of feedback that can inform teacher development. I think this helps to reinforce the path we are on in relation to classroom observations and student feedback.

What is AITSL?

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) provides national leadership for the Australian, State and Territory Governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership.

Got Feedback? Used Feedback?

Have you had someone observe your students learning in your classroom?

  • If yes have you been able to use this information to plan some professional improvement goals for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015?
  • If no then when do you plan to invite someone into your class to observe your students learning?

Have you invited feedback from your students about your teaching?

  • If yes have you been able to use this information to plan some professional improvement goals for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015?
  • If no then when do you plan to invite your students to provide feedback to you based on your teaching?

John Hattie tells us the most important factor in student learning (outside of the student themselves) is the teacher. Dylan Wiliam also believes “every teacher needs to get better”, not just those that are seen as struggling but every teacher.

Of all the things we have to do, and there are many, helping students to learn is at the centre of our professional responsibilities. It therefore stands to reason that improving our ability to do this is also at the centre of our professional lives. We all attend T & D but how often does traditional T & D support us to drill down and examine our practice at the coal face, in the classroom?

If we only ever attend traditional T & D and rarely have our classroom practice analysed then I am suggesting that our T & D is going to be less effective than it could be. No doubt we need to attend conferences, develop networks, share ideas and keep up to date with the latest educational information and traditional T & D can do this. However all the great conferences in the world mean nothing if we choose not to find the time to change our classroom practice for the better. A conference may help us identify aspects of pedagogy that we need to improve but the disconnect between the conference and classroom is often too great with all our enthusiasm dissipating by the time we return to the real world. Conferences also struggle to identify our pedagogical blind-spots. There are certain things that we cannot identify in our own teaching without the assistance of observation by our peers, students or video. The idea that “We don’t know what we don’t know” (blindspots) is a key reason why we need to have others provide feedback on our teaching. This is not to say that traditional T & D can’t change practice for the better, I am just suggesting that classroom observations and student feedback provide a different lens for us to view our teaching by. In a supportive and committed environment were all staff help each other to develop their practice this lens can be a valuable learning tool.

For example, without the help of an observer or student feedback we may never identify that:

  • we don’t use small group work effectively
  • we only ever use direct instruction
  • we talk too much and do not allow for student input during class
  • we heavily weight our questions to the boys and forget the girls
  • we only ever use closed questions
  • we only ever call on the loudest children at the front of the class
  • we rarely give students options and choice
  • we provide little formative feedback
  • we never ask our students to use higher order thinking skills
  • we forget to find out what students already know
  • we need help developing relationships in our class
  • we do not challenge our students regularly enough
  • we only ever use one method with students to communicate their learning i.e. essay writing

So how might this all look? How do I get started, if I haven’t already? What do I do with all the feedback I get?

To be reminded about the PBAS observation process click here for a post I did in early September.

To help demonstrate the practical application of using classroom observation and student feedback I would like to share my use of student feedback and classroom observation and how they have helped me to develop some learning goals for the remainder of 2014 moving into 2015.

Below is a timeline of when I collected my feedback:

  1. Term 2 2014
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 2 Create safe conditions for rigorous learning.
  2. Term 3 2014
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 3 Develop expert learners.
  3. Term 3 2014
    1. Classroom observation week 7
    2. Classroom observation week 8
    3. Classroom observation week 9

Time is often a reason for not getting to things. If we can aim to gather information over time rather than think that it all needs to be done now we will be much more likely to maintain a process that provides regular (term by term) feedback. I have estimated that over the first 30 weeks of the year I have spent approximately 2.5 – 3.5 hours in total organising, collecting and analysing feedback on my teaching.

Below is what I have taken from my feedback to work on over the next 6-12 months. I still have the TfEL Domain 4 student feedback survey to complete in term 4.

I intend to try and complete one thing per term for terms 2, 3 and 4 in 2015 that is around classroom observation and student feedback. I want to leave term 1 2015 free to try and continue to develop what I have already identified below.

Issues/Concerns for me:

  • Will I get to focus much on these things in term 1 2015? It is a big term  for me with sports day, inter school sports day and SANTOS athletics.
  • Are there too many things to work on in the document below?
  • Will future feedback change my direction?
  • How will I go about improving in these areas? Where/how can I access support to get better?


Access the TfEL Compass tool via the LearnLink staff portal.

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For me, this quote (a modified Robert John Meehan quote) sums up what our attitude towards professional learning should be.


The Review of the Australian Curriculum – Government Response

Professor Ken Wiltshire and Dr. Kevin Donnelly were appointed by the Federal Government to conduct an independent review of the Australian Curriculum. This review has been completed and its findings have been released this month. Read the full report here. You can view the initial response by the Australian Government here. The information below is a summary of this document.

The Australian Government’s initial response to this Review encompasses five themes: (i) resolving the overcrowded curriculum, (ii) improving parental engagement around the curriculum, (iii) improving accessibility for all students (iv) rebalancing the curriculum and (v) reviewing the governance of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).

1) The Overcrowded Curriculum – The Australian Government supports the Review recommendations relating to overcrowding in the curriculum. We must deal with the overcrowding of the curriculum as a matter of priority. Overcrowding means that teachers are finding it difficult to implement the Australian Curriculum and cover all the content in each subject. There are 4 recommendations listed to reduce overcrowding of the curriculum on page 7 (view here).

2. Improving Parental Engagement Around The CurriculumImproved parent engagement means that parents have a better understanding of the teacher’s job and school curriculum. When parents are aware of what their children are learning, they are more likely to engage with their children’s learning activities at home. There is one recommendation listed to improve parental engagement on page 8 (view here).

3. Improving Accessibility For All StudentsThe Review heard evidence that the linear progression of the Australian Curriculum makes it difficult for children operating at below Foundation level and as a result the curriculum is not accessible for the students with additional needs. Parents of the students with additional needs are saying this was not what was promised and that the Australian Curriculum has lost credibility with them. Schools have a clear responsibility to address the learning needs of every one of their students. To better support schools in this endeavour, the Australian Curriculum needs more work to cater for student diversity. There is one recommendation listed to improve accessibility for all students on page 9 (view here).

4. Rebalancing The CurriculumThe Review highlighted that, to varying degrees, learning areas placed a strong focus on some content whilst sometimes completely neglecting other content. The Review’s Final Report has also listed recommendations for changes in the content for each subject area – these are covered in Chapter 7 of the Final Report and cover English, mathematics, history, science, geography, civics and citizenship, technologies, economics and business and lastly, health and physical education. There are two recommendations listed to improve rebalancing the curriculum on page 10 (view here).

5. Reviewing The Governance Of ACARASome of the recommendations of this Review go to the role, function and governance of ACARA. The Review identified concerns from some stakeholders that ACARA played the role of both developer and evaluator of the Australian Curriculum. There are two recommendations listed to improve rebalancing the curriculum on page 11 & 12 (view here).

What did I find interesting? The information below is taken from the report itself and not the Government’s response to the review.

  • Recommended that ACARA reduce content and narrow the “core” particularly in primary years.
  • Foundation to year 2 should have a stronger focus on literacy and numeracy.
  • Embed Cross Curriculum Priorities (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia, and sustainability) into areas only where educationally relevant.
  • General Capabilities (Literacy, Numeracy & ICT) remain embedded across all curriculum areas while all other Capabilities only appear in relevant areas of the curriculum.
  • ACARA develop a smaller, parent-friendly version of the Australian Curriculum which clearly explains the intended curriculum a child will be learning in each year they are at school.
  • ACARA make it more clear what is considered mandatory and what is optional in the curriculum.
  • Recommendation to revise the AC to better include emphasis on morals, values & spirituality and better recognise contribution of Western civilisation and our Judeo-Christian heritage.

So there you have it. I wonder how much the current curriculum will change based on this review? Will it be significant or will it end up being just a tinker around the edges?

The Book With No pictures

Here is a book written for 4-8 year olds that has no pictures or illustrations of any kind and funnily enough is called, “The Book With No Pictures.”



The author, B.J. Novak, has created a book that engages young children with words alone, “The Book With No Pictures is a funny read-aloud experience for young children that may also inspire conversation about the power of the written word and the nature of a book itself.”

For more information about the book click here.

If you are wondering how a book with no pictures can engage 4-8 year olds then watch as B.J. Novak reads his book to a room full of children and their reactions to the words he reads. A fun and engaging book with a difference.

iPads as learning journals

During our week 8 term 3 student free day we discussed ways in which to collect and store evidence of student learning. One of these was the idea of using the iPad as a Learning Journal in particular for practical subjects. PE, Food Tech, Art, Science and Technology are all areas that could benefit from this type of learning journal. This is not to say other areas would not benefit but practical areas lend themselves to recording evidence of learning through photos and video.

The example below is a learning journal for Year 9/10 PE (Volleyball). A simple explanation of this journal is that it provides task outlines, success criteria , images and video that support those criteria and spaces for students to insert video and text explaining their learning. I have also created one for my 7/8 Badminton class.

Of course there are hurdles to over come to make this work.

  • Students need access to the same iPad, not every lesson but on a regular basis during the term.
  • The teacher has to create the learning journal in Book Creator and Airdrop (or FileBrowser) it to Book Creator on all student iPads .
  • Students need time in lessons to complete journal work (hwk not possible using school iPad).
  • Students need the opportunity to back up their journal on a regular basis to their student folder using File Browser incase their book is erased (accidentally or intentionally).
  • Students will need assistance and scaffolding to help them use apps like Book Creator and iMovie as well as any other app that might be used to create content for the journal i.e. Popplet and Explain Everything.

Once students have completed their journal the easiest way to hand it up is to Airdrop it to the teachers iPad (teacher opens in iBooks). This could potentially cause another issue as so many journals containing video will require a certain number of Gigabytes of free space on the teachers iPad. However if this is not a problem then the teacher now has access to all the students journals in their iBooks app.

Note: Students should also upload a copy of the ePub file to their student folder using the File Browser app. This allows the book to be deleted from the student and teacher iPads in the future while still providing access to it if needed i.e. a parent teacher interview.

It will be interesting to see how this process works. It is the first time I have tried it on a large scale (46 students across two classes).

How not to write an email

I watched this video the other day and thought back to the work Tanya did with Literacy for Learning. In particular the use of informal (everyday) and formal (technical) language and moving students along this continuum.

The video is of a college professor sending a message to his students using a fake email he wrote based on emails he had received from real students.

Could be a good teaching tool with older students who are required to use email with teachers, potential employers, TAFE lecturers, Open Access teachers and in the future University lecturers and employers.

I found the video quite funny. Just the way the professor sighs after reading the lower case “i” at the beginning of the email made me laugh.

Professional Reading from Twitter Part 3

Twitter app

Reading number 1

Blog: Mind Shift: How we learn

Blog post: Are We Taking Our Students’ Work Seriously Enough? How genuine are we involving our students and seriously listening to what they say?

Posted on Twitter by @MindShiftQED

Reading number 2

Blog: SmartBlog on Education

Blog post: De-grade your classroom and instead use narrative feedback. A post to challenge what some teachers, parents and students see as the very reason students attend school. Our system relies on them, we use them to report to parents and Universities use them to decide on entry to courses. Could you remove grading from your classroom? The comments under the post are also a very interesting read.

Posted on Twitter by @kwhobbes

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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