One of the best things teachers can do to improve their teaching is to look outside their own classrooms, argues teacher development adviser Jon Gore.
Observing other teachers is a key part of development; it improves teachers’ own self-awareness of their skills and also makes managers more effective at identifying areas for further growth. It is paradoxical that opportunities to observe teachers and classes are presented more often to those who already train teachers, rather than teachers themselves. In many ways these trainers need to observe less to aid their own development than those who are just starting out as teachers.
I am a Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults (DELTA) and Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) assessor and constantly observe fresh approaches to teaching among those applying for qualifications. These include the use of new technologies, such as interactive whiteboards, iPads and mobile apps, among other things.
If newly qualified teachers had opportunities to see these new methods in action, they would make faster progress in developing their own teaching methods, approaches and self-evaluation practices, and they would introduce excellence into their work much more quickly.
If today I were a newly qualified or developing teacher, I would do as much as I possibly could to achieve the following:
- Regularly observe peers and more experienced teachers
- Observe as much as I could through video – including excerpts of my own teaching
- Keep up with English Language Teaching (ELT) news online, through websites such as the British Council’s TeachingEnglish site
- Join professional organisations, such as the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL)
- Subscribe to journals that cover new developments in teaching
- Look outside the discipline of Teaching English as a Foreign Language to other areas, such as counselling and psychology, where there are rich resources to acquire expertise in observation
- Use self-help materials to observe myself through reflective observation task sheets
- Lobby my line manager and others to ensure that observation opportunities were provided not just for my evaluation, but also for personal (and therefore institutional) development
Observation and self-awareness are key ingredients to all work involving people. We have all experienced the frustrations of managers who are excellent at systems and administration, but lack the interpersonal skills to be truly effective at managing people.
Observation cuts across all our work, is essential to all our relationships and can be honed and improved like any of our other skills.
What are your thoughts on observation within teaching and in management?
Watch a webinar on teacher observation, sign up for further webinars or watch past sessions in the EnglishAgenda series.
Attend the English Effect exhibition in London, open until 30 June 2013.