Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Peer Observations

After edchat tonight on Twitter (teacher self-assessment), I felt I needed to share my Peer Observation Form with others.  It is a great way to do an observation without coming across as critical.  The person being observed sees it as a self-assessment tool, because when discussing it you look at what was happening during specific sweeps of time and then decide if that is what you wanted to be happening.  If so, no discussion.  If not, then you can ask, "why not"?

You can find the peer observation form I use here (lower right corner).  This form is based on a simpler version from ASCD.  If you take a look at it now, the rest of this will make more sense!

Here is how it works.

Sketch a seating chart with students identified by number.  Once every three minutes, write down what the teacher is doing (handing back papers, explaining acceleration, writing on the board, finding papers to hand back, etc.) and then sweep around the room.  Number each sweep so that you can use that number to code what the students are doing. 

During each sweep, write the sweep number and code beside any student who is not doing what they are supposed to be doing (F=fidgeting, S=socializing, etc.).  If the student is doing what is expected, then do not record anything. 

If you have questions that come to your mind, or compliments use the lines to the right to record them.  Do not use this form to give advice or constructive criticism.  That will come out in the discussion that follows.

Beside the seating chart you will see codes like 3F and 7S which means on the third sweep that particular student was fidgeting and on the seventh he or she was socializing. 

I generally leave the form with the teacher as I leave the observation.  We then get back together later to talk about it.

When discussing the observation you will notice that times when the teacher is ineffective you see a lot of students off task and a lot of codes show up.  You can ask, "Why do you think these students were off task at this point?"  The teacher can usually identify the problem and think about how to prevent it in the future.

You might also identify students who have a lot of off-task codes beside their name.  This gives the opportunity to evaluate what is happening with that student.  You can ask, "Is this common?  What do you think is happening?"  This might lead to a discussion with the special education teacher or a call home to parents to find out if this has been an ongoing problem.

I have had great success using this method.  I give choices to my teachers for what they want from my observations.  I will ask if there is something they are working on and they want me to watch for.  For example, some are working on asking better questions.  They might want me to count the number of higher level questions they ask.  I encourage them to ask for data collection so they can see if they are improving.  However, nearly always they ask for the standard form because it is so helpful and non-threatening.

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