I have read a couple of blogposts about observers offering feedback or intervening in lessons during the lesson being observed. After I had ranted at my partner about what an awful idea this is and how I would down tools if it happened to me again she suggested that I write a blogpost rant instead.
Before going on at length about why this is a bad idea I will say what conditions would have to be in place to make this acceptable to me:
- All observations would have to be conducted by someone whose opinion on how to teach Mathematics I respect.
- All observations would have to be conducted by someone whose feedback on the teaching of Mathematics I value.
- Any dialogue or intervention that occurs would have to be subtle and unobtrusive so as not to undermine my credibility or disrupt my lesson.
- If, when and how any possible intervention is going to take place would have to be agreed and it would have to be my decision whether or not it actually happened. If I can’t veto their intervention I don’t want any interventions taking place.
I’ve written several blogposts about my experiences of observations and the various senior leaders I have worked with over the years. I have come to the conclusion that while many of them are nice people and most of them are competent at at leat some aspects of their jobs I don’t really want them in my room. I don’t want to be observed by most of them. No good ever comes of it. I don’t want their feedback. It’s rarely any use to me. I want to be left alone to get on with the job of teaching.
I tolerate these interlopers in my classroom disturbing the learning environment because I have to but I’m not obliged to like it.
Almost every time an observer has decided to contribute to one of my lessons in some way it has either been disruptive, undermining or both. Rarely has it ever made the lesson go any better.
I think my main issue with this idea is simple. It assumes that the observer knows what a lesson needs better than the teacher does. Lets look at that assumption for a minute:
- Does the observer know the dynamics of the class better than the teacher? Unlikely.
- Does the observer know the various needs and issues of the pupils in the class better than the teacher? Unlikely
- Does the observer know what the pupils in the class are capable of better than the teacher? Unlikely
- Does the observer know more about the subject material being delivered than the teacher? possibly if they are a subject specialist.
- Does the observer know more about the best way to get the pupils in the class to understand the material? Possibly if they are a subject specialist.
I do not believe that most observers would know best if they were observing one of my lessons. There are only a handful of colleagues I have worked with that I would have been happy to have contributing to or intervening in a lesson during an observation. Each one has been an excellent maths teacher, someone I trusted to act in my best interests and someone whose opinion on teaching Maths was valuable to me.
I have worked with far too many middle and senior leaders that I would not, for a variety of reasons, have wanted intervening directly in one of my lessons during an observation. The ones I would not want commenting on or intervening in a lesson far outnumber the ones where I wouldn’t mind.
As I don’t see how it would be possible for staff to choose which observers can and cannot intervene in a lesson during an observation that is not problematic in some way I think I would hate an observation system like this. Unless there is a serious issue with the behaviour of the pupils, the safety of the pupils or the professionalism of the teacher, that needs addressing immediately, feedback can wait until after the lesson.