There are several ways in which teachers can develop in their profession. These include reading educational studies, attending conferences, workshops or courses, joining webinars, talks, discussion forums and communities on-line, keeping blogs and reflecting on them your teaching practices. Another powerful learning tool for teachers is Peer observation: teachers observing teachers.
Peer observation is when one teacher watches another while teaching, then gives feedback, for the benefit of both of them. It’s a simple and powerful development activity. It is an uncommon practice in Spain but according to TALIS* research 57% of Teachers in the UK reported having participated in mentoring and peer observation.
Peer observation can be very effective when teachers acquire new skills or ideas at conferences and then model those new approaches for their colleagues and when it is used as a means of sharing instructional techniques and ideologies between and among teachers.
Being observed in the classroom can get on teacher’s nerves, and that’s because teacher observations are seen as a performance evaluation rather than a tool for professional development and, in turn, for student learning. It can be uncomfortable, intrusive or can curtail academic freedom. This is why Peer Observation should be designed to be non-judgemental and developmental rather than evaluative and externally required.
The aim is not to make an overall judgment about the standard of the lesson or the teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. The aim is to be of benefit to teacher and observer, giving both the opportunity to think more deeply about particular teaching and learning issues. The teacher gets another perspective on aspects of their teaching, while the observer has the opportunity to learn about new and different ways of doing things. The most positive benefit of teacher-to-teacher observation is that it makes teaching a public rather than a private act.
Peer observations often work best when there is a specific focus for observation identified by the teacher herself. This could be to investigate an area the teacher wishes to explore in more detail, or a problem the teacher wants to try to solve.
The process involves the following stages:
- Pre-observation discussion of the lesson and focus of observation.
- The lesson.
- Post-observation reflection on the lesson, learning points and action plans.
These stages will be developed in the next post in this blog, although, if you want to move forward, here are some practical guides and documents that will guide you to the process of peer coaching: