Planning an Observation

Begin with the end in mind, and you have a roadmap to arrive at your desired destination
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About This Strategy

Goal setting is critical to successful observations. Successful observations transform teaching. At BetterLesson we believe that transformative superpower is accessible when using a student-centered approach to teaching, coaching, and school leadership. We make that action scaleable by using the Try-Measure-Learn method to guide the change cycle. This strategy provides the student-centered language and tools to support the goal planning start of the TML cycle, all of which can be integrated into a district, school, or state established process.The TML resources, found in the BetterLesson Lab, can be used as is, or can be integrated with other coaching models such as GROW and WOOP. Conducting an observation can be collegial, coaching, or evaluative. All of these types are covered as separate observation strategies.

Implementation Steps

In general, most districts have a protocol for the planning procedure. These steps are intended to be added to that protocol, to strengthen the process towards the true purpose of teaching observations, which is to improve the teaching and learning in the school.                                     

  1. Conduct a collaborative planning meeting, using the guiding questions of the TML cycle and coaching language.

  2. Select a specific, measurable result (what will I see that tells me that .... is working?) as an observation focus.

  3. Select a time that will allow you to observe your teacher working on the goal set during the planning meeting.  

  4. Prepare a note taking tool focused on what you are looking to observe such as a collaborative log, the GROW model, or the WOOP model (see resources below).  These models are also available as strategies in the BetterLesson Lab.

Planning a Collegial / Coaching Observation

Getting into each other's classrooms to observe the teaching and learning environment established by colleagues has been proven to be one of the most effective means to support positive change. There is more to it, however, than just showing up. This strategy will provide you with guidelines to making this a transformative experience.

Implementation steps:

  1. Establish a purpose for an observation. Being specific about what you want to learn about your own practice, and hope to learn from others, leads to more actionable data.
  2. Collaborate with a colleague or colleagues

Planning an Evaluative Observation

The formal observation process varies depending on the district, state, and school. The observation tool is generally already prescribed, and within that tool are the prescribed planning steps. However, we believe that since the purpose is always the same, to improve student learning, the process of planning can be infused with a more student-centered approach. These steps focus on those additions to the process.

Implementation steps:

Note: Many of the preparation steps can be done whole school in an all-faculty professional learning meeting. This move also creates momentum for a collaborative support system.

1. Define the goal. In general, this has been done already but as it is fundamental to success, it is repeated here.

2. Differentiate. What does this goal "look like" in the classroom

  • of a new-to-teaching teacher?
  • of a veteran teacher (10+ years)?
  • of a mid-term teacher (5-10 years)?
  • of a new-to-this-school teacher?

3. Develop the observation plan collaboratively. Ask:

  • What is your vision for your classroom?
  • How do these ideas could help you reach your goals?
  • Do you have ideas about what you would like to try in your classroom?
  • How do you see your vision and (district, school, teacher) goal coming together?

4. Thought Partner. This is the pivotal part of the conversation where suggestions and ideas are shared. Listen as much as you talk. 

5. Select. Have the teacher name the observation target. Make sure it is narrow enough to provide evidence of impact. For example, rather than observing a "reading lesson", observe a specific element of a reading lesson such as an interactive read aloud. Guiding questions to help with the observation targeting process:

  • What is the learning purpose of this lesson?
  • How will you know if students are "getting it"? (If the strategy, change in model of instruction or practice, is having an impact?)
  • What are you doing?
  • What are students doing?
  • What should I be looking for in this lesson?

6. Set a date.