I’ve written about formal observation here on my blog a few times before but don’t think I’ve ever considered all the different types of observation a teacher like me can experience based on who the observee is and what the observer is focusing on.
So far I’ve encountered the following situations:
- I observe my colleague (as a colleague).
- I observe my colleague (as her immediate superior).
- I observe an outside worker (as her mentor/supervisor/trainer).
- I am observed by a colleague.
- I am observed by my administrators/boss.
- I am observed by an outside worker/teacher trainee.
The above six situations can be combined with the following:
A) The observer zooms in on the observee teaching a random group of learners. Such a group of learners can be specifically chosen/created for this purpose, for one semester only, for example. I experienced this situation during my internal teaching practice at uni.
B) The observer zooms in on the observee teaching her own class. The observer doesn’t necessarily know the class (this is usually combined with points 1 or 2 above).
C) The observer zooms in on the observee teaching the observer’s class (this is usually combined with point 3.)
D) The observer zooms in on the class rather than the observee – either out of curiosity or because there have been some issues and the observee needs help (this is usually combined with points 1, 2 or 5).
My favourite type of observation, which, by the way, I’ve recently experienced for the very first time, is observing an outside worker teaching my own class. The fact that I consider this my favourite type of observation is pretty egoistic if you think about it because the observee, as well as the class, are at a disadvantage. The thing is that it’s likely that the observee doesn’t know the
test subjects learners very well and the class may feel nervous since they don’t know what to expect from the new teacher. Plus I am there to rule watch them all.
Anyway, there are some benefits too. For one, I can help the observee by giving her tips – prior to the lesson or afterwards – because I know my class like the back of my hand. I believe that if she is a regular teacher, teaching an unknown group of learners may help her see what she does with her own classes. Some things are better seen from a distance after all. For two, and this is the selfish part, I can see what my students are like from a totally different angle – virtually and metaphorically. For example, as I usually sit among the students, my physical perspective changes a great deal. Also, I can see the impact the observee’s teaching has on my class because at last, I have an opportunity to go through the whole process together with the students. It’s even more authentic if the observee doesn’t show me her lesson plan in advance. Thus I can tell how clear her instructions are and/or how motivating the lesson is overall. Actually, the observee is like a mirror I’m looking in: her mistakes and achievements may in effect reflect all the things I do in class myself.
And the most desirable outcome is when I can happily exclaim: “Heureka! My students did really well in your lesson (secretly thinking: … because I did a good job as a teacher)”. 🙂