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Observing others

This week I have been extremely lucky. I have been able to observe 3 other teachers teach lessons. I have for a long time held the belief that observing others is the single most effective way to improve one’s own teaching and I feel I have gained a lot by doing this this week.

I regularly seek out opportunities to go on see my colleagues teach, obviously this is in an informal setting and the purpose of this is for my own improvement. Last year I mainly observed senior teachers and/or teachers who taught classes which were similar to the ones I was having trouble with, and I continue to do this. But in the run up to Christmas I had the idea of asking my classes who they thought were the best teachers. I figured if the pupils thought they were the best then they were definitely worth seeing. I contacted two members of staff whose name kept on coming up to see if I could observe them. One of them had non-contact time in all of mine, so I couldn’t see him, but the other was happy for me to come and had a great idea. He asked me if I could write the observation up and give feedback as if it were a real observation so that we could both gain more of an insight into the grading/observation process. So I did this and he is going to return the favour after half term. The lesson itself was a PE lesson, I really enjoyed it, was torn between a one and two grading, and it gave me a good insight into how PE lessons run (it’s very different from when I was at school!). It also brought to light a problem that I would not have considered before. “How do you show progress over time in PE?”

There are a few issues with this: firstly, how can you evidence progress? And secondly: with the carousel nature of PE topics, how do you avoid the star L7 footballer from term one who can’t play badminton seeming to have regressed in term two because his badminton level is L5? We had a long discussion during the feedback on this topic. We had a few possible ideas for the first problem. One was to have the pupils keep a self-reflection journal and enter each week “I have achieved level ________ today by_______ next week I hope to achieve _____ by ____”. And the other idea was to keep spread sheets holding data for each week. To tackle the second problem, I was drawn to the mats of it. I figured that the pupils could be assigned a level for each topic at the start of the year based on prior attainment. So one pupil might have, say: Football L7, Badminton L5, Tennis L6, Cricket L7 and Fitness L5. The mean average of this would be a L6. Then each time a unit was completed the base level would be replaced and the mean would steadily increase over time. This would take into account levels for all sports and give a more holistic level for PE to report to parents. I figured this was fairly similar to maths, where a pupils might be working at L8 in algebra, but L6 in shape and number and L7 in data, but would gain a L7 overall.

The next opportunity I had to observe this week was a maths lesson. We had a teach first trainee come for a week’s placement from another school within the city. He was a top bloke and had asked to see some low ability lessons, so I welcomed him into my Y9 class. After observing the first lesson he said he would quite like to try teaching them, so we agreed for him to take one of their lessons that week on reading scales. The lesson was great, the class are brilliant, but I was worried they might not respond to another teacher in the same manner, this was a worry that turn out to be pointless, as they took to him well. He had a great mix of competition, AFL and consolidation and made me think about how I would teach scales in future.

This week’s final lesson observation was a Y13 English Lit lesson. The teacher is a senior teacher who I have observed before with a KS4 class and whose name was mentioned by some sixth formers I asked as someone who teachers A Level well. A Level teaching is something I feel is one of my strengths, and something that has identified as a strength by others, but I have never seen anyone else teach it. (Well, except when I was studying A levels myself!) I felt the lesson was great, and the atmosphere in the room was similar to the atmosphere in my A Level lessons, in fact, the lesson itself went very similar to the way mine do. Only the content really differed, I managed to take a lot from the lesson.

I feel I have a good week, as far as my own learning journey is concerned, and hope to build on this even further in the coming weeks.

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  1. March 11, 2013 at 4:59 pm

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