Classroom Observation Specifics to Create Positive Growth

Dr. Benjamin Washington
Dr. Benjamin Washington
Project Director for 21st Century Community Learning Centers; Ed.D. Educational Leadership
A teacher stands at the front of a classroom, teaching a lesson during her classroom observation.

For teachers, classroom observations can be both rewarding when it comes to implementing best practices but also intimidating when it comes to accessing the expectations of school administrators during the observation. Classroom observations are used to facilitate positive growth in students and teachers.

These observations can be as simple as a five-minute administrator walkthrough or more formal as an observation for teacher evaluation or renewal for a professional license. Regardless of the type of observation, it is important to note that positive growth is the goal for the teacher, students, and building administrator.

According to the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), to make classroom observations count as much as possible there are four focus areas to review continuously. These areas are instruction, planning, environment, and professionalism.

When considering classroom observations, these four areas will foster growth in the teacher and focus on the needs of students. To further understand these four areas, it is essential to understand the return on investment in teacher knowledge, confidence in delivering instruction, and student academic growth.

Focusing on these areas allows for an effective guide to continuous growth and development. This allows for a rubric to be used to guide teacher expectations and school administrator and state department accountability for staff. One such example of this is the South Carolina Teaching Standards 4.0 Rubric adopted from the NIET.

Instruction

Classroom instruction should be research-based, differentiated to student learning abilities and styles, and project-based. When optimizing the learning experience of students, the teacher needs to consider how the teaching standards and objectives can be translated to the level of the students.

Furthermore, how instructional content is presented and finding ways to motivate students in their learning process is vital to understanding how to grow students’ and teachers’ ability to impact academic and social success. When focusing on positive growth in the classroom, it is important to think about ways to gather academic feedback from students to check for understanding and facilitate lessons that focus on problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Today’s students need teachers and administrators who have access to professional development for 21st century teaching skills and applications to real-world practical experiences. For more information on engaging students through technology in the classroom, consider pursuing a grad degree in educational technology. This and degrees in curriculum and instruction and educational leadership provide ways for teachers and administrators in the K-12 and higher education spectrum to enhance their craft and impact student learning. Finding ways to use data to see student learning trends and ways to continue to find professional development for educators will provide a platform to bring growth to the teaching and learning process.

Planning

Planning lessons and learning objectives is crucial to facilitating effective classroom management. Additionally, both short-term and long-term planning helps define the scope and sequence of instruction as well as the implementation of content delivery for student learning.

When observing a teacher, school administrators must look for evidence of proper classroom planning and transitions. Things to look for that give evidence of effective planning includes having standards and objectives displayed on the board, interactive ways to incorporate technology in the classroom, and ways to summative assess student learning in a formative way.

Effective school administrators find ways to allow for teachers to learn more about curriculum writing and planning to facilitate instruction in the classroom. Whether it is K-12 education or teaching in higher education, school officials and teachers should focus on how the planning and development of lessons will impact students to maximize their learning experience.

Classroom Environment

successful classroom environment intentionally emphasizes student engagement and differentiated instruction and creates a positive classroom culture. When thinking about a classroom observation, consider how the environment impacts the facilitation of learning. What routines and procedures are being implemented to increase instructional time and allow students to feel comfortable exploring their personalized learning?

High student engagement leads to minimized instances of classroom distractions, student outbursts, and builds a sense of a community of learners. Creating a positive learning environment should emphasize on building relationships, giving positive praise to students, and setting high and rigorous expectations for learning. The classroom environment should be led by a teacher who models professionalism for students and finds interactive ways for students to see themselves as professionals who can make an impact at school, at home, and in their broader community.

Professionalism

Teachers and school administrators are held to a high standard. This can be at a K-12 school or at a university or college. When thinking about observations in classrooms, it is important to remember the impact being made on students. Students in today’s classrooms, whether in-person, hybrid, or online, need to see examples of professionalism. This translates not only to professional dress, but also knowing how to teach students professional communication skills. In a traditional brick-and-mortar school, educators need to be consciously modeling the example of professional attire and professional conversations amongst colleagues and students. When presenting in-person or online, be sure to cite proper sources of information to increase the credibility of your lesson, presentation, or conversations with others.

Attending professional development conferences and joining educational organizations to increase your professional resources is important. Organizations such as the International Society For Technology in Education (ISTE)  provide ways to collaborate with others and find meaningful professional development content.

Understanding the four categories mentioned in this article will provide a guide to a successful observation experience for the teacher and the principal/administrator. Promoting positive growth for students is crucial to the growth and development of schools and the students and communities they serve. As education is ever evolving, there is still a vital component of effective teaching and learning and the maximizing of student potential for future impacts on a positive and progressive global society.

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