Teachers are often very good at preparing lessons, hands-on activities, and assessments for monitoring progress. However, when it comes to preparing for an observation, they often feel less confident. In the midst of virtual, traditional, and blended classrooms, teachers are looking for ways to boost their observation results.
Remember the Reason for Observations
Teachers are responsible for the learning that takes place within their classrooms. Likewise, administrators are the instructional leaders who must ensure positive student outcomes within the school. Observations are one way of linking a teacher’s effectiveness to student performance. The question becomes, what are administrators looking for during these observations? While many states may have their own rubrics, there are a few common components that administrators hope to observe.
The Learners Must Be Engaged
Students need to be actively engaged in the lesson in order to learn new standards and apply new skills. In the traditional classroom, this could take the form of notetaking, partner collaboration, or whole group discussion. To incorporate movement and provide brain breaks, students might “do a stand up if you agree and sit down if you disagree” type of activity.
Virtual learners can also be active participants in the online classroom, although it may take a little more creativity. Students may answer questions and post the answer in the chat feature or on a whiteboard they share on camera. In either setting, activities should motivate students to focus on the lesson and actively participate.
Administrators want to see how teachers incorporate technology in the lesson. With the possibility of all students working online at some point, teachers must prepare students to transition comfortably to an online platform. This can be accomplished by using those same platforms while within the class setting. The teacher may model the use of such online sites or may allow students to practice on individual computers. It is highly important that students are able to logon and move throughout the site independently.
In addition to online learning platforms, teacher can incorporate technology by hooking students with a short video clip, having students review the skills with a quick review game, or take students on a virtual field trip related to the lesson subject. In order to boost one’s observation scores, a teacher should demonstrate the ability to effectively weave technology to enrich the lesson.
Differentiation is Important
Every class, whether online or in-person, has a wide range of student abilities. Another way to heighten their observation scores is for teachers to plan varied strategies for reaching every child on their individual learning levels. While it is important to provide students with grade-level standards, it is also vital to ensure that students are given activities on their instructional level.
This may mean providing at-risk students with sentence starters, graphic organizers, or math problem guides for completion. It also means making sure that above-level students have enriching activities that allow them to think deeply through a situation. When the teacher demonstrates an understanding of student levels and has anticipated the needs for each, the administrator will observe an in-depth knowledge of students within the class.
Provide Instant Feedback
When observing a teacher, administrators also want to see that teachers provide high-quality feedback in a consistent manner. This includes moving around the room, observing students work, and guiding students through the instruction as needed. It also involves providing and maintaining learning expectations. In addition to responding to the students, the teacher must use feedback from the students to further drive instruction of the lesson. This involves listening to students’ questions and allowing them a time to demonstrate their understanding. It also means allowing students time to share ideas, ask questions, and provide responses to one another. For virtual classrooms, chats and breakout rooms are great for allowing time for feedback between students and the teacher.
Questioning, Thinking, and Problem Solving are Crucial
While performing an observation, administrators are looking for ways the teacher models and encourages questioning, thinking, and problem-solving strategies. The questions asked by the teacher should vary in their depth of knowledge levels. Virtual teachers can use chats, virtual hand-raising, and polls to assist in questioning effectively. Frequently asked questions at varied levels help propel thinking throughout the lesson.
Like questioning, thinking should be encouraged throughout the lesson. Students who are able to strategically think through the application of skills are able to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the lesson.
In addition to questioning and thinking, educators should design tasks that enhance problem-solving strategies. This can be accomplished through categorizing, justifying solutions, and even making predictions, as well as experimenting and finding multiple paths to solving problems.
Provide Time for Reflection
To boost one’s observation results further, the teacher must provide a well-paced lesson that has a natural beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should hook the learner and the middle should provide time for thinking and demonstrating knowledge of the skill and its application.
In order to end a lesson effectively, there needs to be a time of reflection. This includes a restatement of the objective, a summary of the skill taught, and an understanding of the relevance of the lesson subject to student lives. This can be done through a whole group discussion, partner chats, a quick writing, or exit ticket.
Ultimately administrators want to see a progression through instruction, student and teacher collaboration, and independent student work. Whether online or in the classroom, the goal of any lesson is to provide instruction that allows the student to actively engage in learning. By incorporating a few easy strategies, teachers can ensure rigorous lessons that lead to positive outcomes.