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February 26, 2007

Workplace Issues- Observations

Hello Readers,

How do you feel when you're told that someone is going to observe your class? Though observations are ideally meant as a way to improve teaching and learning, your boss may see it more as part of the hiring/firing process than as part of your professional development training. Because of this, it is quite normal for teachers to feel nervous. To get through your boss' required observations,...

there are a few things you can do.

1. Be prepared. If you know in advance that you will be observed, make sure that you prepare your lesson well. If not, having a back-up lesson plan that's equally well-prepared might also be useful.

2. Do your own observations in your class for professional development. Taking an interest in improving your teaching can only help.

So how do you do that? Well, there are three obvious sources of feedback on your teaching. They include: your colleagues, your students, and yourself.

Asking a colleague to observe your lesson may still make you feel a bit nervous. Receiving criticism is never easy. However, one way to lessen the stress, is to make a mutual agreement to observe each other's classes. That way, you'll both be in the same boat. You can ask your colleague to observe special features of your class, or ask for general feedback. It might be useful to put together a sheet first. A very simple version is simply something like this:

Time /Events /Comments and Questions


If you want to look at your learners and what they're doing, you might want to make a sheet like this:

What learners do / What this involves / Teacher's purpose / Comments


Another great source for feedback is your students. You can get feedback in an informal discussion about the class and what the students like/dislike, by having the students fill in an evaluation form, or by having the students write about it an essay.

An evaluation form might look something like this:

Name ___________________________________ Class ______________ Date ____________

1. On the whole, I feel that I'm learning very well/fairly well/don't know/not very well/badly.

2. I find the lessons interesting/moderately interesting/boring.

3. Things I would like to do MORE in our course (circle all that apply):
pronunciation practice /vocabulary /grammar /listening /speaking /reading /writing /literature / homework/group or pair work/individual work/

other (say what): _____________________________________________________________

4. Things I would like to do LESS in our course (circle all that apply):
pronunciation practice /vocabulary /grammar /listening /speaking /reading /writing /literature / homework/group or pair work/individual work/

other (say what): _____________________________________________________________

5. In order to get the most out of the course, I need to try to:_____________________

6. In order to make the course better, my suggestions to the teacher are ________________

7. Other comments: ________________________________________


Finally, the last source of feedback is yourself. There are a few ways you can do this. Some teachers keep a reflective journal, where they keep track of what they taught, how the class went, why things went well or didn't, etc. Another way to give yourself feedback is to record your teaching and to observe it later. The same observation sheets that you use with other teachers can be used here as well.

In doing these things, not only should your teaching improve, but you should begin to feel more comfortable with having other people observe you as well. The next time your boss comes around with an observation form, your only worry should be, "how much of a raise am I going to get?"

More information about observation methods can be found in Penny Ur's "A Course for Language Teaching", Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Good luck!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*Looking for more articles that focus on workplace issues specific to ESL? Click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker who hails from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, and lived and worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked with students that range in age from three to more than sixty years old. She worked in universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, as well as private tutoring. Besides teaching, she also worked as a head teacher, an education manager, and a material development manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she currently writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing. Carol is also currently working on her MA in TESOL at the Oxford Brookes University in England. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at February 26, 2007 04:16 AM

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