Peer Observation…is it helpful?
Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.— Oscar Wilde.
It is often said that experience teaches wisdom and mistakes make you stronger. However, the art of teaching is one which, in my opinion, is a life long journey of learning; you can always better your best. Indeed, even though I believe in these sayings, I was still hoping to find a shortcut – become a master teacher of mathematics in three to five years (pretty ambitious). After all, how hard could it be? It is the same content. So isn’t it like reading the same script five days a week for three years?
Now, fast-forward to 7 + years later and I am still learning so much about the same content.
While I have certainly honed my craft through reading much research about how to teach various concepts in maths, watching loads of Youtube videos and of course lots of practicing the problems before I go in front of my students; I believe one of the things that impacted my teaching the most was Peer Observation.
Peer observation deserves so much more credit and should be widely practiced. It builds reflective practitioners, it encourages discussion around teaching and learning and when used effectively, our number one clients – students – reap significant benefits.
Inviting other teachers to come into your lesson can itself be quite daunting, the fear of criticisms, thinking of all the things that could go wrong – class control, not being able to adequately answer a question posed by students and so many other things. However, these are exactly the reason why peer observation should be considered. Moreover, it is informal and so the pressure is minimal.
Having other teachers observe me, was having another set of eyes, except with 20/20 or perhaps a 360° vision – the observer sees much more than I did and so was able to give me tips on little things that had big impact.
On the other hand, I enjoy observing other teachers teach – this is the short cut to experience that I was hoping for! There is always something to learn, so many good practices and, as Picasso said ‘Good artists copy; great artists steal.’ I took his advice and I would steal literally every good practice I observed. I would be so excited to try something I learnt from my peer observation in my lessons to see if the ‘magic’ would work for me too. Surprisingly, 9 out of 10 times it did!
I saw more progressed being made by pupils during lessons and on assessments and of course, my classroom management improved significantly.
In my department, we observe each other frequently, and I value the discussions in our feedback sessions because I find them very useful.
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