Lesson Observations

However confident you are as a teacher, being observed can be daunting.

What if it all goes wrong? What if, after everything you have taught them, your students become mindless zombies who are incapable of naming simple states of matter, let alone explaining the complexities of energy transfer.

Planning 
Keep it simple. Don’t try to do anything that you haven’t done before. 

That doesn’t mean that you should teach to exactly the same format and stick to it. You can, however, ‘rehearse’ elements of a lesson. 

For example, you may want to include ’jigsawing’. Simple techniques like this are a great tool for students sharing information but, if the class are not familiar with the process, you could end up troubleshooting group dynamics which will detract from the fantastic physics content that you have taught.

If you have more than a few weeks’ notice, ensure that your preceding sessions are well planned and referred to in your lesson. Additionally, include reference to subsequent lessons, as this will establish your viewpoint with regard to medium term planning and pupil progress.

Many schools have a preferred lesson plan layout which you should use if at all possible (your head of department should have a copy). Ensure that you make copies of your plan for all the adults within your class ahead of time. 

You may be required to give a copy to the observer before the scheduled lesson; if not, make sure that there is a copy available to show them.

Focus 
Almost all observations should have a focus which will usually tie in with the School Improvement Plan.

You shouldn’t let the focus dominate your planning, or you could find that your lesson may not be truly representative of the way in which you usually teach. Having said that, due care and consideration should be paid towards demonstrating the key focus for that lesson.

Equipment 
It’s very tempting to include every piece of equipment at your disposal, to create an ‘all singing, all dancing’ affair. 

Again, the more ‘props’ that you use, the greater chance there is that something could go awry.

In any case, ensure that your friendly lab’ tech’ knows that you will be observed. If you don’t have the luxury of a technician, make sure that you have previously set up your apparatus and tested that it all works. Don’t rely on ‘it was fine last time I used it’. You never know if a kind soul has inadvertently tidied something and lost bits.

Questions 
Well thought out questions are crucial to demonstrating your efficacy. 

If you are unlucky enough to be observed by a non-science SMT member, the questions you ask and your response to the answers will enable you to highlight misconceptions at the beginning of a lesson and attainment during the plenary.

Make sure that you have a variety of open and closed questions. Ensure that you are clear about the purpose of the questions you are asking, e.g. to promote discussion or to elicit understanding as part of AfL.

Pace 
Estimating time can be tricky, especially when you are dealing with practical elements in a lesson. 

It can be very hard to judge how much time a class will take on an activity. 

Too quick and your class could end up frustrated and confused, too slow and your highflyers may get bored. Be prepared to be flexible. 

If you know your class well, you should be able to estimate how long they will take to complete a particular task but if there are questions that need answering then be prepared to adapt your planned lesson on the spot.

Behaviour 
Behaviour may not be an issue within your school, but that might not stop you from worrying about how the class will react when you are being observed. 

Undoubtedly, all children will adapt their behaviour when another teacher is in the room. 

This can result in a supremely well behaved class and nine times out of ten, it usually does. If you happen to experience the one time out of ten in which that is not the case, deal with the behaviour in the way that you normally would. 

Stick to school’s behaviour policy. Don’t be afraid of stopping teaching to deal with a behaviour issue. As long as you remain calm and consistent, adverse behaviour shouldn’t be detrimental to the outcome of your observation.

Differentiation 
Even a set class can have a wide range of abilities. 

Ensure that your questions are suitable to the range of abilities in your class and make sure that you have a little extension work up your sleeve. 

You may not need it, but your observer will undoubtedly want to know that you are catering for G&T. Ensure that you have made provision for other SEN and have considered how your TA/LSA will be deployed.

If possible, try to include a multi-sensory aspect within your lesson. If that doesn’t meet well with the lesson objectives, make sure that you have a range of elements to your lesson that will meet a number of different learning styles (auditory, kinaesthetic etc)

Gender 
It’s a small note, but since there is a gender gap in physics, it may be something which an observer will want to comment on. 

Keep a mental note of the language you use and ensure that your time is equally distributed throughout the class. 

Are you visiting the girls as much as the boys? If you have a friendly colleague available before your observation, you could ask them to watch you teach for a fixed time and keep a tally on how much time you spend with different students in your class. The results may surprise you.