feedback

#ObserveMe

I really like the #ObserveMe movement (see Robert Kaplinsky’s post here or the hashtag). However, I’m going to have to tweak things to make it work.

Gone are the days of LTC Eastbourne. My two years at that school were highly collaborative and peer observation was commonplace. It wasn’t an open doors policy, but a fair few teachers were happy for me to drop in and observe at short notice, some extending the open invitation (like Sketch who blogs here). There was a time at LTC (admittedly when I had more time myself) when I’d observe another teacher at least once, often twice a week. Teachers welcomed feedback but, unlike much of the #ObserveMe tweets I’ve seen, I was rarely directed to focus on a specific feature or skill – ‘i.e. how do I vary interaction patterns?/How can I do a better job of keeping learners engaged?’ etc.

The ‘free-for-all’ approach had its perks for me – I could focus on whatever I wanted. I often focused on how teachers gave instructions and also on the correction techniques they used – that’s really interesting to observe in a language classroom. Whiteboard work was also a favourite! For the teachers I observed, I guess the feedback topic was a lottery. It’s not the most effective/focused way of doing things but hey, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity of observing experienced teachers. Post-observation feedback still led to some interesting discussions – it was sometimes just good to download about issues that emerged during the lesson!

Fast-forward three years and my experience of observations has changed a lot. My two observed lessons per year (one developmental, one evaluative) are thorough and quite stressful. They are fairly by the book (i.e. this book!) and my performance is now linked to my pay, so giving the observer what they want is the priority, rather than giving the learners what the need. Sniff. I’ve frequently been the observed teacher in my current job rather than the observer. In my first year I was observed either formally or through drop ins about 12 times (!) by line managers, trainers and sometimes sales staff getting to know the products. Most observations were top down, which is sad. The only teacher who asked to observe me (rather than a manager who told me they were observing) has moved on, and I’m really lacking someone to bounce ideas off and who I trust to offer objective and informative feedback.

I want to change this, and to do so I think I need to change our teachers’ perception of observations. Given the formality and rigidity of our current observations, my approach here is the opposite. Complete freedom – no guidance, no specific focus (which I would have liked for my own benefit), nothing but allowing other teachers to come in, observe and comment. Breaking the invisible barrier between colleagues and just getting the dialogue going. It doesn’t matter what about to begin with, just… tell me what you think of my teaching and we can take the discussion from there!

Here’s the poster I’ve put up on my door. I hope someone pops in. *Anyone but the boss, ANYONE BUT THE BOSS!*

Feature image: TonyCrabbe

IATEFL 2017: Does feedback work?

A summary of Loraine Kennedy’s main points from the talk ‘In one ear and out the other: does feedback work?’ You can access the session here (again, won’t embed).

Orientation

This talk was specifically about in-service feedback for teachers, not about feedback on training courses

If we are not giving feedback for the right reasons, and getting the right results, then why bother?

Studies (e.g. Kluger and Denisi 1996) have shown that only a third of feedback has a positive effect – two-thirds has either a negative or no effect. With this in mind, Kennedy considers how to change the way we approach professional learning, and the impact of feedback on teaching performance and ultimately student learning.

What is feedback?

  • Feedback is limiting the discrepancy between current performance and future goals.
  • We often think of feedback in narrow terms (e.g. observations). Hattie and Timperly (2007) point out that even reading a book related to teaching can be a form of feedback.
  • Only feedback that is sought and accepted is likely to have an impact

(more…)

Post-it note votes

A quick post-task for poster work. We’ve been doing quite a bit of post-it note voting recently, students seem to like it.

Display posters around the room. In this case, we were designing environmentally friendly parks. Tell students that we will vote for the best ones. Elicit/negotiate different categories to vote for:

  • Most environmentally friendly park
  • Best English
  • Craziest design
  • Etc…

Choose 4 or so categories. Give learners 4 post-it notes each. They write a category on each post-it, then go round and read/look at each poster. Once they’ve chosen their winner for each category they stick the post-it note next to it. Remember to point out that they can’t choose their own work!

post-it-1      post-it       post-it2

When everyone’s finished, do a quick tally and announce the winners.

What happens if some teams don’t get any votes? I normally rig it so that doesn’t happen!

Quick, simple, fun.

I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.