Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Power of Observation

One of the best things about my teaching practicum, oh those many years ago, was the chance to sit in and observe other teachers in their classrooms.  Everyone has a different teaching style and there is always something to take away and make your own.  Since my practicum days I have taken the opportunity a few times to sit in on colleagues' classes, but never as often as I would have liked.

student teacher by peiqianlong
Attribution License

Blogs, Twitter, and social networks are making it easier to network with and learn from other educators, but for the most part they don't allow for actual observation.  Lately, however, I've been able to get in some virtual classroom observations and it's been great!  This past year I've taken a number of week long on-line professional development classes through KnowSchools.  In addition, I've been training to be an assistant facilitator for KnowSchools which has allowed me an inside peek as to how the different facilitators organize and run their week long classes.  The classes are done using Moodle and it has been fascinating to see how the different facilitators make use of the different features in Moodle.  So I'm learning about some great ways to improve my teaching practice and I'm getting to observe talented educators and how they teach.

I've also participated in some virtual PD offered in Elluminate Live from a variety of sources; today I popped in (briefly) to Classroom 2.0's weekly show.  I use Elluminate Live with my distributed learning students so whenever I'm in a session that someone else is moderating I'm looking for good ideas that I can steal!  It's also good to experience an Elluminate Live session as a participant.  It reminds me that it is boring just to sit and listen to the moderator; I need to give my students an active way to participate and discuss ideas and I need to engage them with good visuals.

Do you take the opportunity to observe your colleagues as they teach?  If so, how do you make time to do this?  Do you prefer live and in person, or virtual observations?  I'd love to hear from you :-)


  1. When I was teaching full time, I was very aware that watching other people teach was a valuable learning tool, but time constraints always prevented me from doing that. At times I got the chance to co-teach which was always a learning experience, and not necessarily a constructive one. Recently, I have found it very helpful to see how people lead Elluminate classes.

  2. Kia ora Claire!

    This is a splendid way of seeing how other teachers work. It is several decades since I had the opportunity of participating in the classroom with this practice. I was a stirrer for this to happen at Rongotai College when I taught there.

    There was a team of us - science and mathematics, old and young, all experienced - it was really helpful for me who was the least experienced of all in the team. I learnt heaps.

    As an observer/teacher I think that I'd like to find out what being videoed would feel like, as I never got the chance of this. I think that it would reflect some telling things especially if the kids didn't know they were on video - but I tend to think that there is a catch here and I'm not sure if privacy rules would permit that without announcement and consent.

    Anyway - we had fun, way back, and I can still remember some of the things that we did in class in teams of three and four - not team teaching, but one teacher with several observers. It is character building.


  3. @Sarah, I know what you mean about being difficult to find the time to observe; so many other things seems so urgent. I've never co-taught and I imagine it must have its challenges...

    @Ken, one teacher and several observers; sounds intimidating if you're the one teaching ;-) It must have been wonderful to see what was going on in the other classrooms in the math/science part of the school. I've never been video'd teaching, but I have had my vice principal or principal come in and observe and give feedback. A couple of times my principal mapped where my interactions with students were taking place (who I called on or spent time interacting with)--trying not to have 'hot spots' in the room or other groups of kids that you totally ignore.

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. Great post. Our superintendent believes in having all of our new teachers spend a few days just following the students around from class to class. He is convinced this is a great way to expose new teachers to different styles and approaches. I tend to agree and it is worth the money for the sub.

  5. Actually, i am not a teacher and i am a student. Aside from listening to my teachers, i also love to observe them on whatever they do in class because i want to know how confident they are in teaching us new information.

  6. @Aleli, thanks for commenting. It's good to be reminded that students are observing teachers too. Do you find that when a teacher appears confident it affects the way that you learn the new information?

  7. Yes, Maam. I love it when my teachers our confident, it makes me feel i need to be like them. They are cool! but i need to admit that some teachers are not confident. Just like my professor back in 1 year college. I love the subject but it makes me feel tired to study because my professor is talking to the board and the next day he will make correction to the things he already said. It makes me confuse.


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