Now that you have examined the four competencies related to Personal and Professional Preparation, how will these inform your practice?
Active and Focused Observation: How to Inform Your Teaching Practice
Active observation is, at best, an active, purposeful task that stimulates deep learning and the development of professional “know how”. At worst it is a passive process that leads to either heightened anxiety or total ‘shut down’ in the learner (Morris, 2003).
“I think it’s absolutely of minimal value to sit somebody down in a room and say watch me, because they don’t know what they are looking for, there is a huge range of things that I would want them at different times to be observing, but with structure – different expectations at different points.” Quote from a mentor teacher
During your observation opportunities in the program, consider the following:
- Observation involves active engagement in watching, listening, and in some cases, interacting, using a critical lens
- You need to set a purpose for observation (consider the list below for ideas)
- Collaborating with a partner allows for debriefing to share insights and perspectives
- Seek out appropriate opportunities to challenge yourself, and encourage your peers to do the same. Identify and support high school students who would benefit from your support.
- Identify the kinds of teaching experiences you can have. (e.g. reading 1:1, working with small groups, providing additional support to learners)
- Identify artifacts that you can include from your school-based field experiences in your dPortfolio.
- As you were observing in the school/classroom, consider what puzzled or challenged you? What are you seeing? What are you wondering? What additional context might be helpful for you to make sense of your observations?
- How did you demonstrate the “Personal and Professional Preparation” competencies during your observation?
- How did you know if learning was happening? What opportunities do students have to demonstrate growth mindset?
Considerations for active observation
It is impossible (and often counterproductive) to try to observe everything that is going on in a classroom. Consider the following as lenses with which to organize your observation. Choose one or two only, depending on what you need to know—and really engage in gathering evidence through your observation and interaction.
- School context: neighbourhood setting, facilities, student demographics and diversities, school culture, school philosophy, extracurricular programs, academic programs, displays in common areas, staff members. How does the school context provide a sense of the school community?
- Physical environment of the classroom: desk/table arrangement, available technology, visual aids, displays, etc. How do these things affect classroom management, types of instruction, student interaction? How does the environment reflect the teacher’s beliefs and values about teaching and learning? What constraints are there on the learning environment?
- Student/teacher interactions: What is the tone of the class? Are all students given the same amount of attention? What kind of attention? Also note teacher movement in the classroom as it relates to interactions, instruction and classroom management.
- Classroom routines: How does the teacher organize class start-up, dismissal, late students, transitions between activities. How do routines contribute to or detract from classroom atmosphere and class management?
- Teaching activities: How does the teacher introduce the lesson and relate it to previous learning What various instructional strategies are used? What resources are used? How does the teacher keep students involved and engaged? How does the teacher check for understanding? Give directions? How is the lesson paced? What types of questions does the teacher ask? What types of assessments are evident? How does the teacher give feedback to the students about their learning?
- Diversity of learners: In what way are these learners diverse? How does the teacher embrace and manage this diversity? How does the teacher differentiate instruction? What UDL principles are being employed? How are assignments adapted? Is there student choice? How does the teacher work collaboratively with EAs?
- Language of teaching and learning: What types of phrasing does the teacher use? What language is used in instruction? How do you know that learning is happening? What does student engagement look like?
- Group dynamics: What do you notice about the whole group? During group work, notice similarities and differences between groups. Why are some working better than others? What is the teacher doing?
- Creating classroom community: All of the above categories have significant impact on classroom community and tone. How does the teacher build community?