Making lesson observation less threatening and more developmental
I’ve been thinking about observation of teaching for a workshop I’m preparing for the BALEAP Teacher Education Special Interest Group (TEdSIG). Observation certainly seems to engender mixed feelings amongst teachers (Wang & Seth, 1998; Jay, 2017)). In an earlier blog post on observation, I explained that although observation of teaching was mandatory at my institution for BALEAP accreditation, I was concerned to emphasize the developmental nature of observations. I thought this might make the experience less stressful for new teachers and more rewarding for returning teachers. We set up a variety of types of observation: short buzz or walk though observations and peer observations. In 2020, with all classes online, we were able to conduct asynchronous observation through recordings of online lessons. Although this form of observation could have mitigated some negative feelings, most teachers were aware that a particular lesson would be observed at some point. Their reactions were consistent with reports in the literature (Wang & Seth, 1998; Jay, 2017)
Continue reading “FOBO: fear of being observed”
- T 3: I had no inkling the lesson would be observed […] I am glad of the opportunity to be seen as I really am without any pretence. For better or worse!
- T 16: I was aware that this lesson would be listened to by others and that always makes me slightly uncomfortable!
- T 20: I think I panicked about being observed and the students for some reason chose that day to be particularly unresponsive and I ended up reading the slides.
A personal selection of presentations from the BALEAP 2021 conference hosted online by the University of Glasgow.
I’ve been attending the BALEAP biennial conference, hosted online this year by the University of Glasgow: Exploring pedagogical approaches in EAP teaching. While I was still teaching, I would have been looking for presentations that helped me to reflect on my materials development and classroom practice. Now I’m retired I have the luxury of sitting back to take a wider view so I have been more interested in talks that stimulate reflection back over my 27 years as a teacher, materials writer and scholarly explorer of underlying principles for my practice.
Continue reading “BALEAP2021 conference selections”
Understanding the dynamics of spontaneous teachable moments in online classrooms
Spontaneous teachable moments – often referred to as unplanned learning opportunities or critical moments (Myhill and Warren, 2005) – are those moments in your lessons where you sometimes need to depart from the planned flow to address specific student needs (Haug, 2014). The triggers for these moments arise in a variety of ways, e.g. student responses and questions or a particularly difficult sentence structure or unfamiliar lexis in a text or a link to an assessment task. If you think back to the last spontaneous teachable moment that occurred in one of your classes, you might consider how effective you felt it was in contributing to student learning.
Continue reading “Trips, tours and random walks: using Legitimation Code Theory to understand spontaneous teachable moments”
- To what extent did it function as a distraction, taking up time that did not serve the needs of most students in your class?
- Were you able to connect back to the main aim of your lesson so that your students were aware of the learning point?
- Did you experience any confusion in your knowledge of the concepts you were teaching that prevented you from fully exploiting the teachable moment?
Teacher metacognition for 21st century classrooms
I’ve been involved recently with observing EAP lessons and assessing submissions for the BALEAP TEAP portfolio. In both cases, I’ve viewed lesson plans, which were enacted in classrooms or linked to observation reports. It seems to me that the teachers often missed an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge about language and language teaching and about the attributes required for successful study at university through their plans. Teachers can have quite negative attitudes to lesson plan preparation, regarding it as an onerous chore and not something an experienced teacher needs to do. In some observed lessons, I’ve sometimes been presented with the bare minimum of a list of tasks, some timings and an indication of the student groupings for each task. This does not show whether the teacher understands the rationale for the tasks and how they link to learning outcomes and assessment. I might catch a glimpse of this as I observe activities in the lesson but there is much more scope for a teacher to show what they know in a detailed lesson plan than in a 60 minute observation.
An observation of your teaching by colleagues you trust can be an opportunity to explore your teaching approach in a safe space.
I work for an institution with a BALEAP-accredited pre-sessional programme and one of the requirements for quality assurance is that teachers undergo a regular formal observation of their teaching. Teachers find the experience stressful, even though we try to follow recommended procedures for the observation, with pre- & post-observation discussions, observees selecting the focus and sensitive handling of any issues that arise. Teachers who regularly return to work on the programme also find the formal observation intrusive, amounting to a lack of trust in their experience and professionalism. I’m keen to explore ways to make the experience less stressful for new teachers and more rewarding for returning teachers. To this end, I thought I should experience an observation of my own teaching, so I asked two colleagues to take me through the formal observation process.