February 24, 2020

What can be learned from an observed lesson? – Rachel

What can be learned from an observed lesson? How does this impact on your strategies for behaviour management?

Research has shown that observing teachers is equally as helpful as feedback alone (Hendry and Oliver, 2012). As a trainee, I have found it to be highly beneficial for improving my practice and deepening my understanding of pedagogical approaches. For example, I recently observed a year 8 English lesson at another school, with planning as my main area of focus. From this observation, I was able to gain a better understanding of how a well-structured series of lessons, clear success criteria and formative assessment can have a positive impact on student behaviour.

In this lesson, I observed the three components required for a ‘flow state’: ‘clear goals, immediate feedback, [and a] balance of challenge and skill,’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014). For example, at the beginning of the lesson, students were asked to recall the success criteria of a journal entry. Student answers were based on previous lessons and showed their understanding of not just what to do but how to do it. I noticed that immediate feedback was given, and misconceptions were addressed if required. Following this, students were then challenged to apply their knowledge through group research and group writing. Finally, students used their knowledge of the success criteria to provide feedback to each-other. I could see in the lesson that students were motivated and engaged by this; they were often helping each other to be successful in the tasks and the environment in the classroom was collaborative and engaging. Following a conversation with the teacher afterwards, I also learned that this series of lessons related directly to an upcoming assessment.

Following this lesson observation, I concluded that my plans to date had not been focussed enough, which could be having a detrimental effect on student behaviour. For example, I had recently created a medium-term plan that explored the literary and linguistic features of non-fiction but had not included (or considered) how this connected with the assessment at the end of the unit. This lack of focus could add a sense of confusion amongst students, result in a lack of ‘flow’ from lesson to lesson and ultimately impact negatively on behaviour. Consequently, I have re-evaluated my approach to planning and developed a clearer understanding of how planning relates to both formative and summative assessments.

After observing this lesson, I realised the scope of content I wanted to cover in each unit was too broad, so I have now adapted my medium-term lesson plans to focus clearly on a small set of core skills and knowledge outlined in the curriculum. As part of this new approach I am also directing attention to only one text type at a time (i.e. a formal letter or the opening to a story).

After reflecting on a year 8 class that I teach, I realised that a few of my students can be quick to disengage, which may be because they do not know how to be successful or if they are progressing. I could see I had not been communicating clear goals early enough or regularly enough in the unit, and I had not given students enough opportunities to build self-efficacy through peer and self-assessment, which could be affecting their motivation in class. By using formative assessment more consistently, I could help facilitate a stronger sense of ownership amongst students and therefore significantly increase their motivation (Brookhart, Moss and Long, 2008).

As a result of the lesson I observed, I now appreciate how clear expectations can impact positively on student motivation and how planning to ‘make accurate and productive use of assessment’ (Teachers’ standard 6) can help promote ‘a safe and stimulating learning environment’ (Teachers’ standard 1).

Sources:

Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice: Seeing is Believing, The Benefits of Peer Observation, Graham D. Hendry and Gary R. Oliver, 2012. p.1

Educational Psychology Review, Theoretically Speaking: An Interview with Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi on Flow Theory and its Usefulness in Addressing Contemporary Challenges in Education. Karen Stansberry Beard, November. 2014. p.6

Educational Leadership: Formative Assessment that Empowers, Susan Brookhart, Connie Moss and Beverly Long, November. 2008. p 57.

Department for Education: Teachers’ Standards


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