Peer observations

Aside from observing a couple of teachers during a short induction that I had for my first teaching job, my experience of peer observations has been whilst doing my TESOL and then at the school I am  teaching at now. Considering I have been working at the school for almost two years, I have only observed 2 lessons and been observed by 1 peer (aside from the observations from my DOS). I hadn’t really thought about this until now, but that doesn’t seem all that many if the advantages of peer observations are correct in terms of the benefits to individual teachers, the learners, and therefore the school as a whole. 

I look forward to and enjoy watching peers. However, I think in my current teaching context  I’ve seen it more in terms of developing my own practice rather than supporting my peers to develop theirs. I feel during my TESOL I had a different approach. I saw it as having a second set of eyes on what was happening in the classroom and seeing what it was like to be a learner for that lesson. It’s interesting that this is not how I have felt in my current teaching role. Maybe this is because I felt on a ‘level playing field’ during my TESOL. We were all just starting out and all feeling very nervous. We’d had so many classes together as learners ourselves and then trying things out on each other in a teaching role, I felt that I could not only offer support and encouragement, but be honest about what I thought worked well and areas that I felt hadn’t gone so well. We’d spend time discussing this. The school I am at now has some very supportive teachers, but I am aware that they have so much more experience than I do. My peer observations were set up to give me an opportunity to watch teachers who are experienced in teaching Swedes, especially in a Folk high school. So when I observed them I saw it as a learning opportunity for me, but also because I don’t think I was quite sure what to feed back on. 

I get extremely nervous about being watched. I feel nauseas and panicked and want the whole experience to end as soon as possible. I plan the lesson in far more detail than I normally would but feel this distracts from a  more free flowing lesson. The reason I plan it in more detail is probably to feel more in control, which then has a more negative impact on my teaching. 

I think that if peer observations are carried out using certain models or structures, they can be hugely beneficial. For example, the diagram adapted from ‘Classroom Observation’ by Matt O’Leary (2014) shows a model of how peer observations can work. 

This is what has been missing so far in the peer observations I have been involved in. Having an agreed focus would make it easier to know what to look out for during a lesson and feedback would be far more meaningful and beneficial for the person being observed. Actions should be made from this and applied to the observed persons teaching so that things move forward. 

There are benefits for both the observee and the observer. The teacher being observed has an opportunity to try out new strategies, develop different approaches to managing a problem they are having, to boost confidence and to encourage reflection on teaching and learning. The observer has the opportunity to view the lesson from a learners perspective and may pick up some helpful tips or strategies that can help with their own teaching. This in turn feeds into benefits for the school as a whole. According to John Hattie (Hatti, Masters and Birch, 2015; cited in Cambridge Assessment international education) a shared approach to professional development improves teacher effectiveness. Therefore, having the opportunity to learn from each other can stimulate new ideas and improve teaching practice. This doesn’t mean that teachers copy other teachers’ styles, what it does is open up opportunities for a teacher to reflect on their own practice and adapt another teachers techniques to suit their own style of teaching. As stated by William, 2016; cited in Cambridge Assessment International Education, “….the ability of teachers to modify the techniques to make them work in their own classrooms is an important feature of any effective model of teacher development”. This is an area that I feel I have had the opportunity to do with the peer observations I have been involved in, and one that I have used. 

In the current context, video recording seems the best way to engage in peer observations. It is going to be interesting using a video to record a lesson, or part of a lesson and then have my course peers watch it back. I’m not sure if I will feel less pressured by not having an observer in the classroom or if the process of watching the video back whilst with my peers will cause me more anxiety. Time will tell

First observed lesson

This is my first recorded lesson I have done ready to be observed by a tutor. In fact, my lessons on the 9th and 10th of November are the first times I’ve ever recorded myself teaching. So this is a whole new experience for me. It was topic week at school and students from the 4 current classes were asked to choose between a variety of subjects on offer. For that week, students would be in a class of mixed abilities with people they may not have had lessons with before and that may not have been previously taught by me. The topic chosen by this class was food and I developed a week of lessons to cover this.

The morning of the lesson wasn’t without its difficulties. The class was originally meant to be offline only, but there was a last minute online addition. However, that’s the way teaching life can be in the current climate and hybrid teaching is something I am getting used to.

click here to view my pro forma

click here to view my lesson plan

After watching the video back I have identified the following areas that need development:

Timing

Both during the lesson and immediately after I was acutely aware that my timings were wrong. The beginning of the lesson took longer than I had anticipated and it takes longer to group students than I allowed for in my plan. I hadn’t anticipated the length one of the activities took too, and this took me by surprise. I was able to finish all that I had planned in the next lesson and adjust my plan but it did have an impact. Timing is definitely an area I need to think more carefully about when planning my lessons.

scaffolding activities 

One activity students found more difficult than I had expected was identifying verbs we use to cook. Originally I was going to show a clip of Mary Berry cooking and ask students to identify some cooking verbs she uses. This may have helped students with the activity that followed. I was trying to cover too many things in one lesson so had ended up taking the clip out.

Giving Instructions 

I’m not clear when giving instructions for all the activities. For example, when instructing students about a web quest to research celebrity chefs I think I say “what I want you to do….” 3 times before I actually tell them what I want them to do. It may be that I need to write down instructions in order to help both myself and the students

individual needs

As this was a multi level class and included SEN students I missed a few things. Firstly, I had allocated a time for an activity on the google document and then I asked the class how much time they would like. One particular student would have found this difficult and pointed it out to me. Secondly, from the video I’m not sure if 2 of the students at the back of the class are engaged in the lesson or not. They are both lower level students in comparison with the rest of the class and I should have tried to bring them into the class discussions more. Particularly as the stronger students were participating and speaking a lot.

Introducing myself to blogging

I Joined the world of ESl teaching in 2018. After a long career in health and social care I felt I needed a new challenge. As part of my managerial  role I had delivered training to staff on how to best support clients, and it’s a part of my job I really enjoyed. This combined with my love of the English language and my hankering to do more travelling now that my children have grown, seemed to lead me towards retraining to become an ESL teacher. The transition has not been without its challenges, especially in the current climate, but I can honestly say I have never looked back.

After completing my cert TESOL I flew to Malta and taught in a language school there for 6 months. To say I was chucked in at the deep end would be an understatement. I worked long hours with large classes and short breaks in between lessons. However, I learnt fast, and even though I was pretty exhausted at the end of each day reflecting on my lessons helped me to keep moving forward. The bus journey home was the perfect time just to think back over my lessons that day and analyse what worked, what hadn’t and what I could have done differently. 

Since january 2019 I have been fortunate enough to work at a language school in Brighton. Whilst students are predominantly swedish during the winter months there are a number of groups and individual students who come to learn English from all over the world. It is since I have been working here that I decided to embark on my diploma. Something I hadn’t originally intended to do, but that now seems the next logical step to learn more about my profession in order to grow and become a better teacher. Being part of a school that actively encourages reflective practise has enabled me to feel more confident to critically analyse my teaching. Whether this is done individually, talking over a lesson with a peer or as part of a group CPD session. 

I am hoping that during the course I am given the space and opportunity to explore my teaching practice. I am looking forward to discussing ideas with course peers and tutors to help my reflective process with the aim of trying and implementing different approaches in the classroom. 

As someone who has never blogged before, I am interested so see if this helps my process of reflection. It seems a place where I can discuss difficulties I might be having in certain areas of teaching, analysing when, where and why something went wrong or didn’t quite go to plan. It also seems a place where I can celebrate and reflect back on any successes I have.