How and when should you observe your colleagues' lessons - for teachers; How you can learn business from your group-mates - for students; Personal experience - Lesly Rumyantseva.
How and when should you observe your colleagues’ lessons?
Having your lesson observed may be one of the most stressful experiences in any teacher’s career. Some will immediately become self-conscious, sweat and stutter, drop their papers and forget the order of the tasks. Others bloom and feel at their best when they have a peer audience. Let’s take a look at what peer observation gives us, when you should do it and how to approach it in the best way possible.
Peer observation may happen on several terms: two colleagues attend each other’s classes, take notes and later provide each other feedback, which they discuss; a more experienced teacher/mentor observes a colleague’s lesson to give recommendations for improvement; school’s management attends teacher’s lessons to ensure quality.
Effective peer observation does the following:
focuses on teachers' individual needs and allows learning from, and giving feedback to peers
is a core component of creating a professional community and building collective efficacy
can help teachers continue to improve their practice in ways that better promote student learning
is a developmental learning opportunity.
It is essential to stick to a non-judgemental way of observation and feedback because it will ensure high-quality professional development.
When a school wants to use peer observation as a quality assurance procedure, teachers are asked to assess and report formally on the performance of their colleagues according to criteria set out by the school. This way the school can assess a teacher’s performance and make more educated decisions on promotion.
Experienced and competent teachers are often chosen to appraise their peers, since they are familiar with the subject, the materials, the methods and may be able to offer both practical help to a fellow teacher, at the same time demonstrating good practice for the fellow teacher to observe and incorporate into his or her own teaching. However, very clear guidelines should be set, otherwise, some subjective observations and judgments may take place, which will lead to deterioration in professional relationships.
How should peer observation be organised?
Choose your partner carefully, you should trust and respect the person observing your lesson.
Agree on the format
Discuss what aspects of the lesson will be the primary focus of the observation in advance. You may request feedback on a particular area of your teaching, which poses the biggest challenge to you, or which your colleague is more experienced in. You may find various pre-made forms online with tables and questions that will help you choose what to focus on and what notes to make.
The teacher who is going to observe your lesson should be informed of the students in your class, the classroom dynamic, the topics you are currently studying, and what you are planning to focus on in the lesson observed.
Usually, the observer doesn’t play an active role in the class, and this should also be discussed beforehand. The lesson may go astray if they start making comments or participating in activities with the students. It is best if everybody forgets that somebody else is even present in the lesson.
Warn the students about the procedure and ask for their consent. Explain why this is important to you, don’t forget to introduce your colleague.
After the lesson is done, both teachers should meet to discuss the lesson, focusing on strengths as well as weaknesses. If more experienced teachers were paired, they may provide the rationale for their choice of particular methods and approaches rather than the specific areas of improvement.
Advantages of peer observation
Peer observation gives you an opportunity to apply what you have learned from other forms of professional development, such as conferences, training courses, or reading. It encourages honest conversation and constructive feedback without fear of being judged. It can give you insights into how to approach particular challenges you face in the classroom with students and materials.
If done well, peer observation can boost your confidence and encourage self-reflection, for both the observer and the observed. It contributes to healthy working relationships between colleagues and creates a sense of community and belonging.
Have you ever had your lesson observed? Was it a positive experience? Or would you prefer to observe another teacher’s lesson?
Learning from Fellow Students
How you Learn from Other Students
An often overlooked benefit of a business degree is the person sitting next to you. Having spoken with hundreds (honestly, more like thousands) of recent business graduates, they frequently comment on the impact that other students had on their learning.
The primary ways in which fellow students contribute to one's learning experience include:
School can be difficult. This becomes increasingly true for individuals who have extensive commitments outside of their normal course load. Students draw on each other for friendship and support throughout the program. This might come in the form of simply having someone to talk with who understands the difficulty of the situation. It’s easy to underestimate the value of simply having someone who understands your situation to commiserate. I have witnessed many students remark that they would not have made it through a business program without the support of a fellow student.
It is a well-known fact that students motivate each other. Some students respond well to the competitive environment inherent in many business classes. That is, you strive to perform better so as to outperform others. In this way, assigning grades can be a motivating factor for students (though it can have a demotivating effect on others). Also, business classes frequently integrate team or group work. This is particularly true for MBA programs. Students may also find motivation in not disappointing the other students with whom they have group or team projects.
Diversity of Opinion/Knowledge
We tend to think of professors and textbooks providing all of the learning material in a business program. This could not be further from the truth. Students learn a great deal from other students. All students have their own experiences, beliefs, values, interests, and understanding that leads to collective knowledge. Interacting with others allows us to understand diverse points of view. It also fosters the sharing of knowledge between individuals.
The Student Effect on Business Schools
The traditional thought is that business schools strive to enroll the smartest students possible. Being smart or having intelligence are very poorly understood words or phrases. Some might think of individuals who have lots of education as smart. Others may focus on one's ability to learn new things.
Another definition focuses on one's ability to apply acquired knowledge to a situation. And, of course, all of these can certainly be attributes of being smart. Intelligence, however, is far more complicated. In fact, research has identified various types of intelligence. A simple definition of smart, in terms of school, might identify who has a high-grade point average as smart.
In reality, a high-grade point average relates more closely to work ethic and study habits than to intelligence. With this in mind, business schools seek to enroll students who are smart in various senses of the word. They recognize that an active learning environment should promote all available types of intelligence. This requires identifying students with diverse knowledge, interests, backgrounds, experiences, and accomplishments. In this way, having a diverse student body serves to improve the educational experience for all students involved.
Note: Of course, having a high GPA in high school or undergraduate is a positive factor for gaining acceptance into a business program.
In addition to learning from the experiences and knowledge of other students, there is a subconscious effect to having a diverse student body. One of the greatest enemies of learning is ingrained or implicit bias. That is, we are all a product of our experiences and environment. This means that our knowledge or understanding is limited or constrained by these factors. Students who are diverse to us allow us to share in their values, beliefs, interests, and points of view. While we may not adopt any of these aspects, we tend to develop greater understanding, respect, and, hopefully, a degree of empathy.
How do you learn from your group-mates in your language classes?
Have you ever observed somebody else’s lesson? Have you had your lesson observed? How did it go? How did you feel? Was it useful?
I started teaching English at the university and now I have been tutoring for 5 years. I really love these face-to-face student sessions, whether online or offline. Now I am in the field of international business tourism, so every day I work with a foreign language and I think that there is nothing better than practice with native speakers. I am also interested in art and music.
The first time I evaluated the lessons of other teachers was when I was at the University. We had an internship in one of the best Moscow schools, and in order to better understand all the challenges of a foreign language teacher, we had to attend 10 lessons, writing down all the details. I have noticed how teachers conduct their lessons in different ways on the same subject. Someone uses a lot of supplementary materials and almost does not rely on the main textbook, while for someone it is crucial to follow the program and complete the tasks from the manual. For some, interaction during the lesson was an integral part of the lesson (the teacher could sing and dance with the children, joke and watch videos), but for some it was important how competently the students speak. After that, of course, teachers and classmates also came to evaluate my lessons. When you just start teaching, you want to be the best and kindest teacher for your students, including so that they love you. Evaluation of the lessons of the school teachers by me and my trial lessons by the teachers showed that running kindness and concessions towards students can make them bearish. This was one of the most rewarding exercises in foreign language teaching practice. It was that moment when I realized that the teaching vector depends on what goal the teacher sets for himself. You choose for yourself which tactics to use with this or that group of students. You can follow the program using many different methods and techniques, or just print ready-made tests from the manual and read aloud the wording of the tasks from the book.
Would you like to become a contributor and be featured in our newsletter? Let us know!
That’s all for now!