Published 21st January 2019

observe EFL teachers

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Teacher observations are part and parcel of a job as an English as a Foreign Language teacher. Teacher observations are a common way for teachers to work on their continuous professional development. There are a few different types of observations: drop-in observations by the Director of Studies or senior teachers to check up on teachers, scheduled observations by the Director of Studies or peer observations.

While all observations are necessary, peer observations are a useful CPD tool in that they are beneficial to both the teacher and the observer, in different ways. The teacher gets feedback on their teaching style and methods. The observer gets insight into another teacher’s classroom and can glean some valuable tips. However, if an observation is not done correctly then it is likely to be more of a waste of time than anything else. Here are a few tips to consider when doing a peer observation to make sure it’s worthwhile for everyone involved.

Plan the observation

Make arrangements with the teacher being observed well in advance. This allows the teacher to prepare for the observation. There is no need for them to do anything differently (that would defeat the purpose of an observation) but it is professional courtesy to let a teacher know when you are planning to observe them. This is also to prevent you observing a test lesson or something similar which wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of their teaching.

When organising the observation, make sure you are both on the same page with regards to the observation. Be sure to agree on the reasons for the observation (improvement in a specific area or general feedback), the focus of the observation (classroom management, error correction), expectations regarding preparation (lesson plan to be provided?) and feedback (written or verbal).

Clarify the areas for observation

In order to observe a lesson effectively, you need to understand exactly what you want to observe. It’s impossible to observe every aspect of the lesson, so you need to break it down into particular areas and decide which of those you will focus on.

Ideas for areas for observation include:

  • The teacher-student relationship
    : rapport
    : classroom atmosphere
    : teacher/student talk time ratio
  • Classroom management: instructions
    : error correction
    : boardwork
    : elicitation

Write down your key areas for observation on an observation sheet so you can take appropriate notes during the observation. Share this with the teacher before the lesson so they know what to expect in the feedback session.

Give timeous feedback

There’s no point in observing a lesson and waiting a week to give feedback. By that time both of you will have forgotten the details of the lesson and the teacher might have been stressing about the lesson for all that time! Rather arrange a time to discuss and reflect on the lesson the same day or the next day. This way it will be fresh in both your minds and the whole experience can be completed.