Collegial Observation

Both observer and observed learn when colleagues collaboratively observe
30 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Collegial observations provide a potent mutual-growth approach to improving classroom practices. The three powerful questions that best support the collegial observation all focus on what students:

  1. What are you learning?

  2. Why are you learning it?

  3. How do you know if you aren't getting it?

When supported by a pre-planned organizational model and non-evaluative norms, and the professional time to plan, execute, reflect and return to continue the process, collegial observations are attainable and transformative.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes

Here are some steps to get started with collegial observations:

  1. Approach a colleague and ask if you can do an informal observation. State a specific purpose for the requested observation. For example, "I'm hoping to see how other teachers implement this strategy in their classroom" or "I've been trying to figure out how to make group work more effective, is there a lesson where I could see students work in groups in your classroom?" 

  2. Select an observation protocol (see resources below). Even when using an informal process with a buddy teacher, having a protocol helps the observer and observed by giving focus to the observation.

  3. Utilize a planning document, such as a collaborative log, to guide and note your observation. This log narrows the focus of the observation to one identifiable and measurable action, sustains the planning, implementation, and debrief elements of the observation cycle, and memorializes the next steps.

  4. Set a time and date for the observation, and schedule some time with the teacher to debrief the observation if they would like. 

  5. Invite them to observe your classroom as well! This can be particularly helpful if you are looking for guidance or feedback on a strategy you are trying out. 

#ObserveMe

Teachers can seek out and provide feedback to each other following this quick and simple #observeme protocol.

Implementation steps:

1. Create a sign and put it on your classroom door that indicates to your colleagues what you'd like feedback on. Put this sign on your door permanently or when you would like specific observational feedback.

2. Share with your colleagues or your PLC how and why you will be using #observeme and encourage them to create signs, too.

3. Observe your colleagues and welcome feedback from your colleagues who observe you.

4. Find time to seek and reflect on feedback.

Open Up Math 5x8 Card for Observation

Consult this 5 x 8 card that was generated by a SERP team working in collaboration with math leaders in the San Francisco and Oakland School Districts to focus observers' attention on what students are saying and doing so that their work (their thinking) can be at the center of educators' discussions.

Questions to Consider

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  1. Should you suggest to your colleague that they inform their class that you are visiting in order to minimize student response to your presence?

  2. Is there a spot in the room that would be the best place for you to conduct the observation? Will you need to move around?

  3. Are you potentially going to speak with students during the observation? Check this with your colleague prior to the observation. For example, "I’ve been thinking about my observation, and I wonder if it would be alright for me to ask students some questions when the lesson is underway (while students are working)? Some questions I had in mind are, 'What are you doing? Why are you doing this? What do you do if you aren’t sure if your work is good?' Is that okay with you?" 

Coach Tips

Cheryl Belknap
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  1. Stay focused on observing the "one thing" requested by your colleague. You may see other activities within their classroom that you’d really like to discuss, you should honor the focus area you agreed on before you observed.

  2. Demonstrate an open learning stance when interacting with your colleague. You may have taught for years, but there is always more to learn. To support someone else who is willing to take a risk and ask for feedback requires that you also be vulnerable and willing to learn.

  3. Focus first on the wins, even when/if these are small. No strategy is going to change everything and everyone in one implementation. Focusing on what did change, and thinking of how to grow the strategy from there.

  4. Reflect on what you learned from the observation. What might you try in your classroom? Could your colleague support you with an observation?

Tech Tools

Screencastify

  • Screencastify makes it easy to record your own video lesson leveraging resources you have organized in your web browser (slide deck, websites, Google Docs, etc.). Pointing, highlighting and even writing over content is possible while displaying your video and audio as well.
  • Screencastify can support this strategy by providing teachers with an easy way to record a portion of a lesson by using the webcam function. The video can be used later on to analyze teachers and students actions and summarize feedback. It can be very helpful if it is difficult in a given context to free teachers time up to go see each other. Combining the use of Screencastify and Flipgrid could allow for the experience of seeing each other to happen while not leaving the classroom during the teaching day. 

FlipGrid

  • Flipgrid is a video discussion platform great for generating class discussion around topics, videos, or links posted to the class grid. Students can video record their responses to share with the teacher or class.
  • Flipgrid can support this strategy in combination with video clips recorded by teachers of their own classroom using a cell phone camera or a webcam via Screencastify. The grid can then serve as a digital space where people can visit each other’s classrooms and leave feedback.
     

Additional Reading