Before entering into any peer-to-peer observation, the focal point of the observation needs to be crystal clear so that both the observer and the observed are benefiting from the process. Are you looking at teacher actions, student behavior, or both? Are you trying to understand instructional practices or student engagement? Are you watching all students or specific ones? Give yourself some time to think carefully about what you would like to improve in your own teaching and therefore what aspects you would like to focus your observation on.
Here are some suggestions about what you might like to focus on during the observation:
- How the learning is being assessed in the lesson – how does the teacher assess how effectively pupils have met their learning objectives?
- How the class is being managed – how are pupils dealt with if they call out, or create low level disruption? How is a positive atmosphere being created by the teacher?
- The pace of the lesson – is the pace pitched correctly, from your perspective? Is there a good level of variety in terms of the class activities?
- Differentiation in the class – are all levels being catered for? Is there sufficient stretch and challenge?
- Independent learning – are there examples of this in the lesson? Could activities be adapted to encourage more independence?
- Group work – is group work increasing the level of engagement and learning in the lesson? Is it being effectively managed? Has it been carefully planned?
- The use of ICT in the class, both by the teacher and by the pupils. Is there evidence that this is increasing pupil engagement and learning?
You should talk to your partner in advance of the lesson; it is important that the teacher you are observing knows what you will focus your observation on.
How should you decide a colleague to observe?
My suggestion would be to use this opportunity to observe a colleague you have not observed before, and to observe someone who you don’t know very well. One of the big advantages of mutual observations is to create more positive and constructive links and relationships in a school and lead you into contact with more people.
You could ask your Head of Department to recommend a colleague who would be useful for you to watch in terms of your particular observation focus if you would like some suggestions.