The ABC of ELT

What can the uncertainty principle teach us about lesson observations

After the success of my last post on What Schrodinger’s cat can teach us about lesson observations I thought I’d look at another physic principle. Once again via the wonderful resource of one minute physics. Today’s lesson is the uncertainty principle.

Lesson observations, in every guise, can be a bit like trying to measure a waves frequency and location at the same time. Tricky.

How do we choose what to observe?

When an observer comes into the classroom they may have some element of teaching to focus on due to a variety of reasons.

  • The Observee ask for the observer to focus on something
  • As a follow up to a previous observations
  • Following suggestions on an observation sheet
  • The observers pet topic of the month.
  • Observer picks up on any/everything they can during the lesson.

Observing just two elements of a lesson?

It is possible to observe multiple elements of some lessons, for example staging of a lesson (and how rigidly the observee sticks to a lesson plan)  and another elements of, say, how included the students are in the lesson.

However, some elements are harder to observe at the same time as each other and we don’t always just observe two elements. This is especially true if the observer just comes in and tries to pick up on something from being there. They may notice one thing but be blinded to another because of the first thing they notice.

The prime example might be, “How does the teacher help weaker students?” The observer might be focusing so much on what the teacher is doing that it blinds them to the students level. As such, it could be possible to fail to pick up on a weaker student in the class and then not notice how the teacher assisted (or didn’t) this student.

In general, I like the option to ask a teacher observing me to focus on a question I have about a group (usually classroom management and motivation for teens, grading language for lower levels, and often whatever I’ve been thinking about recently), but I also really appreciate a follow up on previous sessions to see how progress has been made. Although, this is specific to senior observations, I haven’t really had a chance to experience many peer observations and don’t know my preference here.

As for when I conduct peer observations, I generally come in with an issue I’m wondering about and observe the other teacher in light of that. How do they cope with this problems? And what can I steal off them (I’m a massive thief really).

What about you? How do you decide what to observe? Do you find it easy to observe more than one thing at once?



About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

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