An(other) #ELTchat on Observation

This is a brief summary (mostly a glorified cleaned up transcript) of the #ELTchat on February 15th, 2017.

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The February 16th #ELTchat was on the topic “classroom observations and how we can use them (both as observer and observed) to improve our teaching”.

The chat kicked off with Sue Annan saying what I know most of us were thinking: observation is a really good topic! Because of this, Angelos reminded us, we’ve chatted about it four times in the past. Here’s a Padlet with those previous #ELTchats on the topic of observation (thanks Marisa!) Nutrich then mentioned John Hughes’ recent survey on the topic of self-observation. A promising start. 

Here’s the bulk of what was then discussed…

WAYS OF OBSERVING LEARNERS/FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE

  • How about observing from the learner’s point of view? How engaged they all were, unspotted errors, etc (Fiona)
  • How many times each student talked or categories of student talk (Maria) 
  • Tally sheets for this kind of observation; very revealing (Ambartosik) 
  • I recorded learners’ pairwork on DELTA M2 and was shocked. Nothing I’d assumed would happen happened! (Olya)

WAYS OF TRANSCRIBING & ANALYZING

  • Transcribe a random 5 or 10 minutes and subject to classroom discourse analysis (Marisa)

WAYS OF RECORDING/LIVESTREAMING FOR OBSERVATION

  • Interested in recording observation – never done it. Maybe self-observation, too (Fiona)
  • I think recording one’s lessons is the most powerful tool for reflection and improvement (Angelos)
  • Or livestream it. Just let in a very few people on your livestream channel. Livestream is great if you have a good fast connection and no uploading needed (Marisa)
  • Skyping an observation? If you turned it into a @touchcast it would be an interactive asynchronous observation with opportunities to comment (Ambartosik)
  • I think videotaped and demo lessons go a long way towards getting teachers to polish their classroom skills to a higher level. (Marisa)
  • Do you use an iPad and upload to YouTube? How do you do it? I like the sound of YouTube unlisted. (Fiona)
  • Yes – unlisted videos or private with password are easy to do – but take time to upload. Looking for an alternative. (Marisa)
  • With recorded observations, the school might also start collecting short snippets of successful activities. Teachers are happy to share. (Olya)

WAYS OF PEER OBSERVERATION

  • We used to do pair observation. You could ask them to concentration on something which you needed help with. Useful. (SueAnnan)
  • [You can use] the last observation action points as focus points for current observation. Simple, but I think most effective. (Fiona)
  • We’ve just started a new idea fo CPD observations: mini SIGs, which you join to suit you. Your own reflective practice, observation of others, sharing findings. It’s fab. The teachers are all on board because they can choose what they want to concentrate on. (SueAnnan)

OTHER WAYS OF OBSERVATION

  • A friend of mine has started doing “fishbowl” classes at conferences (teaches a group, conference attendees observe), then discuss. Scary! (Olya)
  • Unseen observations (via @ChrisMoyse) in UKed is a neat framework. Would love to implement it. (MattStott)

We talked about how not all teachers are comfortable being observed, but that perhaps it’s important to feel that discomfort and get on with it…with the ultimate benefits in mind.

Glenys talked about seeking out observations and watching her peers back in the day. To her, it’s simply “essential”. Ambartosik expressed that she really wishes teachers had the opportunity to observe regularly (of course it’s quite rare to be able to do this). I think many of us feel this way. 

Finally, Olya shared a link to a “really useful” talk on peer observation/coaching from IATEFL 2015

And here are some extra resources on observation that weren’t mentioned, but fit right in:

Martyn Clarke’s “5 Activities for Peer Observation”

Martin Sketchey’s blog post on observation

Chapter on observation in teaching practice from Jack C. Richards

Observation tasks from the Demand High blog

Class observation “beyond the obvious” from the OUP ELT blog

Finally, here’s Jo Gakonga’s video on Observation:

See you at the next #ELTchat? 

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