Lesson observation tips
However confident you are as a teacher, being observed can be daunting. Here are some suggestions for helping the process go as smoothly as possible.
Keep it simple. Make sure to rehearse elements of a lesson that you haven't done before.
For example, you may want to include the 'jigsaw' teaching technique. Simple techniques like this are a great tool for students sharing information but, if the class aren't familiar with the process, you could end up troubleshooting group dynamics, which will detract from the fantastic physics content you are teaching.
If you have more than a few weeks’ notice ensure 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 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 there is a copy available to show them.
Almost all observations should have a focus normally tied in with the School Improvement Plan.
Don't let the focus dominate your planning or your lesson may not truly represent the way you usually teach. Having said that, do make sure to demonstrate the key focus for that lesson.
It’s tempting to include every piece of equipment at your disposal. However, the more equipment used, the greater chance there is of something going awry.
Ensure that your lab technician knows you will be observed. If you don’t have the luxury of a technician, make sure you've previously set up your apparatus and tested that it all works.
Well-thought-out questions are crucial.
If you're going 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 understanding as the lesson progresses.
Make sure you have a variety of open and closed questions and are clear of their purpose, eg to promote discussion or elicit understanding.
Estimating time can be a challenge, especially when dealing with practical elements in a lesson.
It can be hard to judge how much time a class will take on an activity. Too quick and your class could end up frustrated, too slow and your high-flyers may get bored. Be prepared to be flexible.
If you know your class well you'll have a good idea of the time it takes 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 might not be an issue at your school but you may still worry about how the class will react during an observation.
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 10, it usually does. If you happen to experience the one time out of 10 where that isn’t the case, deal with the behaviour as you normally would.
Stick to your school’s behaviour policy. Don’t be afraid to stop 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.
Even a set class can have a wide range of abilities so make sure your questions are suitable for all levels and 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 the gifted and talented.
Ensure that you have made provision for special educational needs and have considered how your teaching assistant or learning support assistant 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 you're offering a range of elements that meet different learning styles (auditory, kinaesthetic etc).
There is a gender gap in physics uptake in schools and it's something you need to be mindful of.
Make a mental note of the language you use and ensure your time is equally distributed throughout the class.
Are you visiting the girls as much as the boys? Do you have a colleague who will watch you teach for a fixed time and tell you how much time you spend with different students in your class? The results may surprise you.