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Classroom Observation and Teacher Reflection

STRATEGY: Create observation tools for principals and peers that offer teachers collaborative reflection opportunities for continuous improvement.

Effective school leaders offer and implement observation tools for principals and peers that offer teachers collaborative reflection opportunities for continuous improvement. School leaders leverage observation tools and collaborative reflection to achieve learning goals, clarify expectations, provide targeted feedback, and gather data to drive professional development. By incorporating observation tools and collaborative reflection into the continuous improvement process, school leaders increase opportunities for reflective conversations with teachers to promote a sense of shared responsibility, trust, and collegiality. Through the process, teachers emerge as reflective, evidenced-based practitioners better prepared to implement and share best practices to positively impact student outcomes.

Details

Observation tools strengthen teaching and learning by providing teachers with supportive and constructive feedback about instructional practices. Through regular collection of data using evidenced-based observation tools, school leaders and teachers access timely information to identify areas for improvement. Observation tools and collaborative reflection also establish a shared vision of effective teaching and learning, as well as promote clear expectations regarding quality student work. Observation tools are implemented in conjunction with informal and formal processes. Informal processes include the use of observation tools separately or differently from those required by mandated performance appraisal systems. Informal processes include peer observations and learning walks. Formal processes include the use of observation tools required by mandated performance appraisal systems, such as observations of lesson cycles and related walkthroughs. Collaborative reflection involves a partnership between the observer and the observed, the school leader and staff member, that is designed to exchange experiences, discuss perspectives, and agree on potential solutions. School leaders practice collaborative reflection to develop self-directed, reflective practitioners who engage in observing, analyzing, diagnosing, designing, and evaluating their teaching and learning outside of formal appraisal processes.

First Steps to Consider

By creating observation tools for principals and peers that offer teachers collaborative reflection opportunities for continuous improvement, school leaders support a shift from professional isolation to collaboration to improved learning outcomes. With observation tools and collaborative reflection opportunities, school leaders provide teachers thoughtful, contextualized views of teaching and learning to inform choices about educational goals and practices. Quick wins

  • Clarify intent and purpose of observation tools and collaborative reflection, especially in relation to performance appraisal systems with contractual implications.
  • Design a variety of observation and reflection tools for different purposes, such as walkthrough instruments, checklists, photo or video journals, rating scales, rubrics, and surveys.
  • Ensure that tools and processes implemented in relation to observations and collaborative reflection provide data needed to focus on the right areas for development.
  • Establish meaningful structures for engaging in observations and collaborative reflection and provide support, time, and resources to engage in both.
  • Elevate best practices and lessons identified through observations and collaborative reflection and celebrate exemplars publicly.
  • Provide opportunities to calibrate implementation of observation tools.
  • Adapt existing research-based observation tools and collaborative reflection practices to individual school contexts.
  • Ensure observation tools and collaborative reflection opportunities are viewed as professional learning.

First steps

  • Develop a common understanding of effective teaching and learning.
  • Identify multiple measures to gather concrete data for understanding teaching effectiveness.
  • Ensure safe and open collaboration to establish a non-threatening environment for collaborative reflection.
  • Determine frequency of observation cycles and collaborative reflection.
  • Ensure timely feedback in response to findings from observation cycles and collaborative reflection.
  • Identify and provide targeted professional development in response to findings from observation cycles and collaborative reflection.

Complexities & Pitfalls

Complexities that school leaders face when creating observation tools for principals and peers that offer teachers collaborative reflection opportunities include not matching outcomes realized from observing and reflecting with well-aligned, job-embedded professional learning opportunities and resources. 

 

Common pitfalls 

 

  • Lacking sustained leadership and commitment. 
  • Lacking clarity on expectations for instructional practice. 
  • Lacking observation or collaborative reflection protocols. 
  • Using observation tools that are cumbersome in length and design. 
  • Facing issues associated with school leaders’ lack of grade-level or content-area expertise, potentially diminishing specificity of feedback available from observations. 
  • Allotting limited time for school leaders and teachers to engage in multiple observation cycles or frequent collaborative reflection. 
  • Lacking (or infrequent) professional development that supports the fidelity of implementation of observation tools and processes associated with collaborative reflection.  
  • Implementing collaborative reflection absent a strong, extended system of support for teachers in response to outcomes from the practice. 

 

Guiding Questions

  • What observation tools and collaborative reflection opportunities best support school leaders and teachers in obtaining a clear understanding of the level of teaching and learning occurring in classrooms?
  • What questions about teaching and learning will be answered through implementation of observation tools and collaborative reflection?
  • What individual beliefs or behaviors contribute to or detract from effective implementation of observation tools and collaborative reflection? What strategies will be employed to promote desired beliefs and behaviors? What strategies will be employed to eliminate contradictory beliefs and behaviors?
  • How do observation tools and collaborative reflection opportunities support consistent measurement of teaching and learning across grade levels and subjects?
  • What implications for time are introduced through implementation of observation tools and collaborative reflection?
  • How do observation tools and collaborative reflection allow for assessment of student learning over time?
  • What considerations are there for implementation of observation tools and collaborative reflection in relation to specialty areas and assignments?
  • How do school leaders use observation tools and collaborative reflection to inform decisions, actions, and policies in response to identified needs?
  • How do school leaders provide opportunities for teachers to seek and receive professional learning aligned with observation cycles and collaborative reflection opportunities?