Peer Observation as a way of Teacher Professional Development that improves teaching practices and student performance

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.

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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.

peer coaching activities

In peer coaching, the focus is on the teacher as learner

The process involves the following stages:

  1.  Pre-observation discussion of the lesson and focus of observation.
  2.  The lesson.
  3.  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:

A Guide to Continuing Professional Development – Peer observations. www.teachingenglish.org.uk © British Council 2012
Doing Peer Observation as Part of Teacher Research. Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014
Peer Observation Professional Development Tasks by Alex Tilbury. Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2015

Teachers Observing Teachers: A Professional Development Tool for Every School

*The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS)

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An introduction to Coaching

1 The growning need for coaching.

Coaching is a useful tool in today’s challenging world of business and commerce. Companies are downsizing, merging and restructuring and there is far more job transition than before. Sometimes managers are no longer equipped to do their work because their jobs have changed so much. They were originally trained to do one job but that training cannot be applied to the job they are doing today. Coaching is also one of the most powerful tools that a leader has in order to improve the performance of his team.

2 Coaching: What does it mean? 
Coaching is a partnership between an individual or a team and a coach. For the purpose of this article we will refer to an individual but the concepts are exactly the same for a team. First of all the individual identifies his objectives. Then, through the process of being coached, he focuses on the skills he needs to develop to achieve those objectives. In professional coaching the individual begins by leading the conversation and the coach listens and observes. Gradually, as the coach begins to understand the individual’s goals, he will make observations and ask appropriate questions. His task is to guide the individual towards making more effective decisions and eventually achieving his objectives. Coaching looks at where the individual is now and where he wants to get to.

3 What happens in a coaching session?
Between the initial interview and an individual achieving the goals he identified, there is a process in which the two parties meet for regular coaching sessions. The length of time each session lasts will be established at the start of the partnership. Between sessions an individual might be expected to complete specific tasks. A coach might also provide literature for the individual to study in preparation for the following session. Most coaches employ an “appreciative approach” whereby the individual identifies what is right, what is working, what is wanted and what is needed to get there. An appreciative approach focuses more on the positive rather than problems.

4 The benefits of coaching.  
An individual who enters into a coaching partnership will usually adopt new perspectives and be able to better appreciate opportunities for self-development. Confidence will usually grow and the individual will think more clearly and be more confident in his roles. In terms of business, coaching often leads to an increase in productivity and more personal satisfaction. All of this leads to a growth in self-esteem.

5 The role of the coach.
In a coaching partnership the coach first needs to listen carefully in order to fully understand the individual’s situation. He needs to support and encourage forward-planning and decision-making. A coach also needs to help an individual recognise his own potential and the opportunities that are on offer. A good coach will guide an individual to fresh perspectives. Finally, the coach must respect the confidentiality of his partner.

6 Enjoy the experience
Coaching can bring out the best in workers, highlighting what they can achieve if they are given the right support. Both individuals and teams can enjoy an increased level of motivation after receiving the right coaching. When individuals are keen to make progress in their jobs, they usually enjoy being coached and find the experience extremely useful.

Extracted from

http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-magazine/introduction-coaching