Classroom Observations

Research over a long period of time suggests that teacher quality above all other educational policy has the biggest impact on student learning. The following quote is from the AITSL website under the heading, The crucial role of the teacher‘The greatest resource in Australian schools is our teachers. They account for the vast majority of expenditure in school education and have the greatest impact on student learning, far outweighing the impact of any other education program or policy’.

Discussion has begun at Leadership around how we can structure teacher observations and processes at PBAS that allow for peer observation of our teaching in a way that is comfortable for staff & provides honest and targeted/useful feedback.

To help foster this discussion Leadership are trying to get Eudunda Area School to visit us in term 4 and explain how their classroom observation processes work (Clare High may also be a possibility). If these visits occur the purpose will not be to hold up any particular  model as ‘the best’ but rather use them as starting points to generate discussion and ideas for our own model.

Some considerations to be discussed by Leadership and staff through the remainder of this year and into next include:

  • Is this process part of the performance management system of the school (or separate)?
  • Do we have a whole school focus for classroom observations i.e. TfEl 3.2 Foster deep understanding and skillful action or do teachers choose specific areas they would like to focus on?
  • How will feedback be given i.e. informally, formally, notes, oral, video or a combination?
  • Guidelines for observing teachers will need to be clear and easily understood.
  • How will the observation proforma look and work? Needs to provide specific & useful feedback that is a easy to understand and use.
  • How do we provide time for teachers to:
    • meet with their observer prior to the observation
    • be an observer for a colleague
    • provide feedback from an observation session
    • reflect and act on feedback provided by the observation?

An article Denise gave me called ‘The Gentle Art of Observation: a small schools approach to peer mentoring and observation’ (Uradila PS) has a statement at the end of the article that summed up their purpose for classroom observations.

The goal at our school is not to have homogenous teachers but teachers who can argue their teaching practice and can honestly say what they are doing is effective teaching.

I look forward to any feedback that staff may have at this point regarding classroom observations either directly or by commenting on this post. The benefit of commenting here is that your peers also get to read your thoughts and ideas which can only benefit the discussion.

Hopefully any observation process we develop at PBAS doesn’t generate the following emotion from staff.

2 thoughts on “Classroom Observations

  1. You raise some significant issues here Nick – but none of them appear insurmountable to me. With the possible exception is there too many items on our agenda. If this is worth doing (and we all buy in – I agree with you) how does the ‘whole’ school agenda look like for 2013? I remember (I think it was around 2007) we overcooked things and took a step back in a disciplined manner to try and reduce what we were doing – whether that conversation happens – maybe worth considering. I also, at the time, thought having that conversation some days after the completion of the school year made the outcomes much more realistic as we were less likely to put ‘heaps’ on the agenda as we may at the start of a year with plenty of renewed enthusiasm.
    I have started looking at Mazarno website tonight and that looks really exciting if we were to progress thinking and action in this area.

    Three additional critical points I would like to add in reflection to what you have added here Nick are:
    The TfEL focus was on an area (3.1) that were directed via data analysis – feedback recieved by students, parents and staff;
    I like the quote of ‘bridging the gap between classrooms – not bridging the gap between schools;
    Staffing investment constitutes the single largest investment we make in schools – wherever our direction is it must focus on teaching and learning’ – and this does that
    Looks great, but we need to weigh up what we can do effectively and most successfully.
    I look forward to the conversations ahead.

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