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:
What are you learning?
Why are you learning it?
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.
Here are some steps to get started with collegial observations:
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?"
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.
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.
Set a time and date for the observation, and schedule some time with the teacher to debrief the observation if they would like.
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.
Teachers can seek out and provide feedback to each other following this quick and simple #observeme protocol.
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.
Colleagues can learn together through distance learning observations.
Email, call, or video conference a colleague and ask if you can do an informal remote "observation." State a specific purpose for the requested "observation." For example, "I'm hoping to see how other teachers support students with disabilities in remote learning" or "I've been trying to figure out how to make group work more possible in distance learning."
Decide what you will observe. For example, a live video whole-class session, a small group video session for a few students, video office hours, or a one-on-one conference. Alternatively, you could ask to explore some of the asynchronous work that the teacher produces for her students (such as Hyperdocs, Flipgrids, Choice Boards etc.)
Set up the logistics with the teacher whose classroom you are observing. Make sure you know the time and have the correct video link. Also, discuss if you will introduce yourself to students in the video call and if you will have your video on. Make sure you know the context for the video call (for example, a live instruction, office hours etc.) If your colleague would prefer an asynchronous observation, ask her/him to record the session and send the recording link to you. See resources below for steps to record the video session.
Select an observation protocol (see resource 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.
Conduct the observation and take notes in the organizer below.
Invite the teacher to debrief with you.
Invite the teacher to observe your online classroom as well.
Should you suggest to your colleague that they inform their class that you are visiting in order to minimize student response to your presence?
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?
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.
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.
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.
Reflect on what you learned from the observation. What might you try in your classroom? Could your colleague support you with an observation?