Reflecting on TfEL and Classroom Observations

During the first days back this year we spent some time reflecting on selected Elements of the Teaching for Effective Learning Framework (TfEL). This document will be needed during the term so that we can complete the reflection process.

With professional development meetings occurring at the moment and teachers considering the focus for their first classroom observation it is important that we reflect on our teaching through the TfEL document. It may be useful to try and link our reflections with the four observation proformas. This may help teachers to select which observation proforma will best suit their professional development needs. Because we are required to complete a minimum of four observations it could be beneficial to stick with the same observation focus across all observations to get a deeper understanding of this area.

Observation focus areas:

  1. Assessment
  2. Being Strategic
  3. Classroom Management
  4. Communication and Engagement

Any feedback on these proformas would be most welcome, particularly the guiding questions that assist the observer.

It is important that we complete our TfEL reflections during term 1. The understanding we gain about our teaching through these reflections should help guide part or all of our professional development for the remainder of the year.  There will be time in week 5 (early closure) and week 8 (staff meeting) to allow this to happen.

Click on the image below to access the TfEL Reflection booklet.

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Continuing to develop our understanding of the TfEL Framework and understanding how it can assist us with developing our teaching practice is an important part of our roles as teachers.

Peer observation @ PBAS

At Port Broughton we have introduced classroom observations as a part of our professional development. Over the past two years we have had some teachers participate in this process.

The process enables teachers to:

  1. Teachers can have a peer provide feedback focusing on a particular area.
  2. Teachers can ask to come in and observe how a teacher delivers a lesson i.e. use of IT, explaining a lesson goal, providing feedback, catering for a variety of students, behaviour management or running a specific program.

While some teachers have taken up this process some have not and it is my aim to continue to develop this process until we have all teachers engaging in the process.

To encourage teachers to engage in the process I have developed some observation proformas which focus on specific attributes of a lesson. The following documents are produced using resources from the AITSL online course Supervising pre-service teachers which Tanya and I are working through.

The proformas cover the following:

  1. Assessment (3 questions)
  2. Being strategic (12 focus questions)
  3. Classroom management (5 focus questions)
  4. Communication and engagement (5 focus questions)

The benefits of using these proformas:

  1. These four proformas focus on important aspects of teaching and learning and are not specific to year levels or curriculum areas.
  2. They narrow the focus of the observation making it easier for teacher and observer to complete the process and receive targeted feedback that will be useful.

Over the next few weeks leadership have made a commitment to approach teachers to seek a focus (i.e. one of the four areas mentioned above) and time for an observation to be undertaken.

Was videoing my own teaching useful?

Recently I published a post titled Ever thought of videoing a lesson? This motivated me to video a lesson of my own and watch it back and reflect on aspects of my teaching.

Using an iPad and tripod set up in the gym I videoed my Year 1/2PE class. I was very aware of not making this lesson any different to what I would normally do and once the lesson began I forgot about the iPad altogether.

Year 1/2 PE Lesson Review – Focus use of time

45 minute Lesson: Just Dance, Humans and Crabs (cooperation/teamwork) and 4 v 1 throwing and catching activity.

My focus was to use the video to determine active v inactive use of time during the lesson.

Below is my breakdown of the lesson with time and activity listed.

Activity 1
2:30min – Time spent starting lesson/role/setting up
3:30min – Just Dance
Activity 2
5:22min – Explanation Humans and Crabs game, student discussion around themes used in the game – team work, tactics and safety.
1:25min – Playing Humans and Crabs. Start of game 1.
2:16min – Stopped for a chat (tactics/use of space/cooperation/how to improve).
58 sec – Playing Humans and Crabs.
1:02min – Stopped for a chat (tactics/use of space/cooperation/how to improve).
50 sec – Playing Humans and Crabs.
1:13min – Stopped for a chat (tactics/use of space/cooperation/how to improve).
30 sec – Playing Humans and Crabs.
1:47min – Stopped for a chat. End of game 1.
56 sec – Human Crabs start of game 2.
20 sec – Stopped for a chat (tactics/use of space/cooperation/how to improve).
1:04min – Playing Humans and Crabs. End game 2.
Activity 3
6:16min – Setting up and explanation of 4 v 1 throwing and catching activity a game we had not done before.
2:17min – Playing 4v1 activity
1:05 – Stopped for chat (questioning/use of space/importance of moving into space).
1:42min – Playing 4v1 activity.
30 sec – Stopped for chat (questioning/use of space/importance of moving into space).
1:57min- Pack up.
  • Active time – 13 min (29%)
  • Inactive time (teacher talk/setting up activities/packing up activities) – 24 min (53%)
  • Other – 8 min (18%) (this involved picking up the class from their room ensuring students had water bottles and walking over to the gym and other incidental tasks i.e. students going to the toilet at the beginning of the lesson)

Observing that students were active for only 29% of my class was a little demoralising and has made me rethink how I go about structuring this class in the future. Unfortunately as teachers we often speak too much which impacts in two major ways:

  1. We don’t give students enough time to learn/practice independently or with peers.
  2. Students switch off and don’t listen or take in what we say because we are giving them too much all at once.

Class discussion, having students put forward ideas and sharing solutions is all important but should not outweigh students learning through being physically active during a PE class.

So what do I take from all this?

Inactive time (teacher talk/setting up activities/packing up activities, 24 min 53%) – It is my “interrupting” of activities that I need to modify so that I do not take up so much of the students “active” time. From the video I noticed that I interrupted games at regular intervals to discuss how things can improve and question students. These chats went longer than the active game periods! This is something I know that I do quite a bit in practical lessons (particularly the younger students) and is certainly something I could limit therefore increasing the amount of active time available to students. I need to develop my ability to get my message across to students clearly and succinctly.

This lesson was fairly typical in terms of structure. Without knowing for sure I believe I spoke more during this lesson than I normally might because I reintroduced a game we had not done for a while (Humans & Crabs) and introduced a new activity the students had had no experience with (4v1 throwing and catching).

Other (8 minutes 17%) – I should be able to tidy up this use of time. I can become more efficient at getting students from the classroom to the gym and then dealing with the “Can I go to the toilet?” question. Quite often we do a Just Dance activity to get the lesson going and maybe having this set up to run while students are going to the toilet and while I do the role is a way of getting students active quicker.

This reflection is based on a single video. I intend to video a range of lessons to get a more accurate picture of my teaching and how I might continue to improve.

This process was:

  • easy to set up
  • non invasive
  • helpful for me to view and reflect on my own teaching in my own time
  • not dependant on another teachers time (although I would like to bring in my line manager as part of the process).

I encourage others to consider the following questions:

  • Have you ever seen yourself teach before?
  • What would you find if you videoed your lessons?
  • Could this method of classroom observation assist your teaching?

Ever thought of videoing a lesson?

During the holidays I came across this video on the Teaching and Learning in South Australia You Tube Channel. The video shows how a teacher has used video to help her evaluate her teaching practice. It struck a chord with me making me realise that while others have seen me teach I have never seen myself teach and that perhaps I should.

I know that listening back to myself speak has in the past been a powerful reminder to me how much I use the word “um”. In the video I did explaining how to use Clickview Online (posted on here last term) I said the word “um” on average every 8 seconds. It was so bad that I edited it out before posting it. If listening to a recording of how I speak allows me to easily pick up something like saying the word “um” repeatedly then I wonder how powerful it might be to record my lessons and then use that video to self reflect on my teaching?

My intention is to video some of my own lessons in the near future and see if I am able to get useful feedback about my teaching by watching myself teach. I would like to post and share what I find as a follow up to this post.

Learning Design – What do my students already know Part 2

On Feburary 18th Tanya kindly allowed me to share her first classroom observation for the year. Tanya’s focus for her observation was finding out what students already know. You can view this first post here.

Tanya has continued her work in this area and has completed a second observation, still focusing on finding out what students already know. Tanya is trialling different methods of finding this information out and determining those she sees as most beneficial to her and her students. On this occasion she used a method called the “Letterbox” strategy.

In this observation Tanya was trying to determine what understandings and knowledge her Year 7 students had of separating mixtures. Tanya created 10 questions and had students rotate around giving their answers on a piece of paper supplied by Tanya. Students had 5 minutes to answer as best they good each question and then “post” their responses back to Tanya via a container at the front of the room.

Tanya’s observational notes

Port Broughton Area School Observational Proforma

Teacher: Tanya Hacket

Observer: Nick Turra

Date: 18.3.15

Focus of Observation

Finding out what students know/bring to a topic. Topic – Year 7 Separating Mixtures. Tanya will be using a ‘Letterbox’ strategy to try and determine student prior knowledge.

 Requires the teacher to distribute a series of questions relevant to the topic. Individually students write answers to the questions on a slip of paper and put them in the “letter box”.

TfEL Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning. Element: 4.1 build on learners’ understandings 
the teacher identifies students’ prior knowledge and cultural practices as a starting point for curriculum.

Observers Notes (staple any additional pages to this document)

1. Clear explanation of purpose – “this is not a test”, “I want to know what you already know”.

2. Very organised having answer sheets already prepared with student names on them and set up so students started at different questions (1 student at 1 question).

3. Allowed 5 minutes for each question then students rotated.

4. Moved around to all students and assisted with explanations of questions.

a. Consideration as to how much help is provided for this type of activity would be important.

b. Balancing explanation of the questions against providing students too much information that allows them to answer a question they may not have got otherwise. This could give false information about what the students really know.

5. Students were engaged in the activity and interested. Five minutes was plenty of time for some students with some questions while others could have used more.

6. End of lesson – explained to students that those questions would be used as part of discussions in the coming weeks.

a. A great resource/basis for dispelling misconceptions that students have.

b. A great resource/basis to share ideas students had for solving some of the problems exposing students to a wider range of ideas and thoughts.

Where to now?

What can be taken from this observation?

 Found the process very useful.

 Questions generated a range of answers, which showed a range of misconceptions.

 Tanya found these useful and assisted with direction of future lessons.

 All the concepts in the questions will be covered during the unit.

Can I make any adjustments to my teaching based on this observation or this observation in conjunction with other observations?

 Did not alter program. As there were no concepts that students fully understood Tanya was able to continue with the program she had designed with minimal alteration but armed with extra information about were students are at.

How will I know that change has occurred in the classroom? What indicators will I see?

 Based on student responses Tanya is comfortable in her knowledge that the program

 Although Tanya is an experienced teacher and always felt she was delivering content at the appropriate level she now clearly knows that she is. She is not moving on from concepts because she thinks “students should know it already”. She has taken the time to find out and is therefore working at an appropriate level with the students.

When will I have my next observation?

 Next unit of science work with either the Year 7 or 8 classes. Tanya will continue to try different methods to find out prior knowledge.

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PBAS Teacher Learning 2015

Professional Learning

John Hattie – Hattie’s research tells us the most important factor in student learning, within the school, is the teacher. It is not, among others, funding, school buildings, ICT or how good your camps program is. While all of these are valuable it is teacher quality in the classroom that has the biggest impact.

Dylan Wiliam believes “every teacher needs to get better”, not just those that are seen as struggling but every teacher. Taught for one year? Taught for 25 years? The teaching landscape is constantly changing and we must change with it demonstrating the attributes we seek in our students as learners.

AITSL – 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’.

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
  • Face to face professional learning communities
  • Online professional learning communities
  • Professional reading (education publications)
  • Professional reading (online including blogs, Twitter, education publications)
  • Classroom observations (peer to peer)
  • Student feedback
  • Visit another school

Professional learning 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.

Classroom Observations and Student Feedback

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

Below is an example timeline of undertaking observations and collecting student feedback.

  1. Term 2 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 2 Create safe conditions for rigorous learning.
    2. Classroom observation week 7 Focus  – questioning
    3. Classroom observation week 8 Focus – questioning
    4. Classroom observation week 9 Focus – questioning
  2. Term 3 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 3 Develop expert learners.
  3. Term 4 2015
    1. Student feedback – TfEL Compass survey tool. Domain 4 Personalise and connect learning.

While undertaking this plan during terms 2-4 constant consideration must be given to changes that can improve your teaching. 

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 and can be found in your white PD folders.

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 and be clear to what the observation is about. This needs to be specific and easily definable. Consideration needs to be given to where this fits with TfEL, the Australian Professional Standards and School Priorities.

Observe the lesson and the learners

What are the students doing, writing and saying? There should be no hidden agendas. The focus of the observation should be about improving student learning and not ranking/grading the teacher. A new observation tool will be implemented in 2015 based around TFEL but with the flexibility for the teacher to focus on what is most relevant to them at that point in time. This proforma can be accessed by clicking here.

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. There are a number of reflective questions on the back of the 2015 observation proforma we discussed in our week 1 staff meeting.

Follow Up: Week 1 Term 4 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.