Peer observation and online teaching

In my post the other day I mentioned self-observation of online teaching. Paul Ashe commented that all these video recordings are great for peer observations too. Absolutely! The whole online teaching/learning experience is awesome for peer obs, especially for someone like me who has just taken on a new role.

I don’t have that rapport with new colleagues yet where I can say ‘hey, would you mind giving me access to recordings of your online lessons so I can scrutinise them?’. Then again, I don’t necessarily need lengthy examples of my peers in action in order to observe great practice. Teacher-student interaction is constantly on display with platforms like Seesaw, and it’s openly available to peers. Google Meets makes it easy for teachers to drop in and out of each other’s ‘classrooms’ when learners need support. From my perspective, that’s a chance to see how other, more experienced teachers go about supporting their learners. Peer observation isn’t only about sitting down and watching a lesson – all this new tech facilitates ‘little and often’ peer obs on the fly. Cool.

Here are some examples of great tips and techniques I’ve observed in recent weeks.

Edtech upskilling

It’s interesting to see how different teachers are dealing with input/instruction. On the whole, there are lots of different approaches, with some live lessons and video demos I’ve seen being great. I came across one cool talk-through on Google Classrooms the other week, where the teacher was using Educreations. The tool allows for screencasting and  annotation. The voiceover and annotations together helped direct attention and draw out the key points of the topic. Simple, effective, I really liked it. And I didn’t plan to come across it, which makes it more memorable.

Phonics

Believe it or not, I’ve still never taught phonics. One teacher uploads phonics activities on Seesaw. These have given me a good idea of how to go about teaching it – better than some vids online as it’s specific to our learners. One thing I noticed about the instructions in these videos too: very clear, concise… I’ve taken note! Haha.

Feedback

One thing I’ve been paying a lot of attention to is how and when teachers give feedback. I noticed a pattern early on, especially with the EAL feedback. It was mostly verbal and it was balanced – some praise, and ever an area to develop or a question to extend the learning. I tried to replicate that style and it’s worked well. I’ve tried something different this week – longer written feedback… Nope, don’t think it’s working. I had to try though. Still, what I observed from experienced teachers seems to work well. It’s amazing how much more personal and interactive things seem when there’s a voice – sounds obvious I know, but it’s very noticeable given the situation right now.

Google Docs

I know plenty of teachers who work collaboratively with students on Docs. However, it wasn’t until working at my new school that I’ve been in a context where this is standard practice. I really have been missing out. You get to see some great work from students produced in real time, collaboratively, and see them correcting themselves, responding to your comments and prompts, etc. I watched one teacher do this well and I’m copying their techniques. Very useful.

Managing class meets

I usually deal with smaller groups of learners, sometimes even one-to-one. It was interesting to attend a class ‘assembly/end of week meet up thingy’ recently, and nice to see how class teachers manage this with young learners. Short and sweet, well managed speaking time for the learners, use of tech like Kahoot to engage the class (done well – always impressive to see tech managed well). And just… nice interactions. When you’re trying to hit the ground running with a new style of teaching it’s great to see things done well!

Video shares

I’ve shared my own video recordings with peers. This has broken the ice a bit – I’ve seen some of my colleagues teach, they’ve seen me teach, we know a bit more about how we do things, our confidence level with tech, how learners respond to our techniques (e.g. questioning, tasks, etc). That feels really important seeing as we still haven’t met each other in person! I really am learning a lot every day, fingers crossed I’m helping the learners develop too…

The more formal video peer obs thing though… who knows, that might happen once the dust settles. They’ll be a lot of lesson recordings available to do it, that’s for sure!

Paul Ashe, thanks for prompting this reflection, an enjoyable one to write!

4 comments

  1. I am glad my comment sparked such interesting reflections. Live online Drop-ins in synchronous lessons (with the permission of the teacher) are a wonderful way to get an overview of what is happening in the school at any particular time and allows to see all the great ideas being used, weave them together and share them with the teachers as a wonderful Idea Swap! Everyone is a winner. Peer observations are also possible and with so many online webinars, conferences and free material this situation has never been better for teachers’ Professional Development. I guess we need to find the positive outcomes of lockdown!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you familiar with Kaizena? I’m just about to start using it this coming week, so nothing firsthand to report yet, but it allows you to incorporate voice-recorded feedback into Google docs.

    Like

    1. Hi Karl. No, not familiar with it. Sounds good! Let me know how it works out, or I’ll keep s close eye on you LinkedIn as usual for an update. It certainly sounds good!

      Like

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