Peer observation: mutual support for language teachers

Perhaps one of the most direct ways of improving your teaching is through peer observation, where teachers watch colleagues in action in the classroom.

IMG_0046Peer observation can help teachers become more aware of the issues they confront in the classroom and how these can be resolved. Observation can also help narrow the gap between one’s imagined view of teaching and what actually occurs in the classroom. By engaging in nonevaluative classroom observations, the responsibility of professional development can also shift from others (supervisors, peers, etc.) to the individual teacher.

Richards & Farrell (2005, p. 94)

Many teachers dread observations.  Often evaluative observations take the form of inspections, organised in a spirit of quality control and with consequences for the teacher’s career (qualification, promotion, or pay).  But observations can also be much less formal, and involve individual teachers simply watching each other teach.  Sometimes a teacher educator or supervisor can oversee this process:

Instead of individual post-observation conferences between supervisor and teacher, the supervisor may lead a post-observation focus group to allow teachers to share their experiences observing colleagues’ classes.

Marshall & Young, 2009, p. 2

Teacher educators tend to agree that well-implemented peer observations can be more “benign and constructive” than traditional observations (Cosh, 1999, p. 24), as well as encouraging greater autonomy in professional development.

References

British Council (2012). Guide to continuing professional development: peer observations. PDF

Cosh, J. (1999). Peer observation: a reflective model. ELT Journal, 53(1). PDF

Davidson, G. (2013). Observation and your teaching staff. British Council webinar.

Marshall, B., & Young, S. (2009). Observing and providing feedback to teachers of adults learning English. CAELA Network. PDF

Richards, J. C., & Farrell, T. S. C. (Eds.). (2005). Professional development for language teachers: Strategies for teacher learning. Ernst Klett Sprachen.(Chapter 6)

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