How observations are used and the perceptions of lesson observations from both the observers and observees have been of great interest to me for some time. While I was in Japan last summer, I was keen to find out how Japanese English language teachers viewed lesson observations. I had spoken to many teachers here in the UK about their experiences and many of them told me that when they were informed they were going to be observed, they would filled with fear and trepidation.
This, however, is very different from their Japanese counterparts. Many of them see observations as an opportunity to develop and learn from their more experienced observers. The observation process tends to be at the beginning of their teaching career and after their first year some teachers may not be observed again. This portrays the observations in a completely different light. It is a development tool used to help teachers in their infant years of teaching. As a result, it is warmly welcomed by teachers. If something does not work in the lesson, the teacher has the opportunity to discuss this with their observer. They can explore the cause of the problem and learn how to avoid it in future; what Schon (1983) would describe as reflection-on-action and reflection-for-action.
The lack of teaching experience makes the third dimension of reflection, reflection-in-practice, more difficult for these new teachers. However, the fundamental tenet underpinning this process is to facilitate the development of more reflective practitioners who can reflect in, on and for practice. When the teachers’ lesson observations come to an end, they will not only have developed their teaching skills but they will also have developed their reflective skills, and for many of them reflection becomes part and parcel of all their subsequent lessons. Sure, it can be a little difficult moving from a dialogic developmental model to a more solitary introspective model, but at least they have been coached on how to learn both from themselves and for themselves.
Sadly, lesson observation in schools and colleges in the UK is seen more as a quality assurance tool linked with punitive consequences rather than a quality improvement tool. Many teachers here see observation as a one-hour performance and therefore gain little if anything from it. The teaching that is observed may not be typical so the feedback may be of little value to the teacher. How much development takes place is a moot point and whether there is any development of reflective skills is highly debatable. Perhaps, it is time we took a leaf out of the Japanese book of teacher development.
(Mr)Yvert de Souza |Teacher Trainer|
Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College
Contact me | firstname.lastname@example.org |