As we know, professional development is an ongoing process. It includes plenty of methods, one of which is video-based observation. Ruth Wajnryb in her book ‘Classroom observation tasks’ called it ‘a multi-faceted tool for learning’.
Lesson observation can be used for professional education in three main ways:
- to observe and learn from experienced teachers
- to record yourself and self-reflect
- to ask a senior colleague or a teacher trainer to analyse a video of your lesson.
Let’s talk about how to take a leaf out of more experienced teachers’ book.
Why is it beneficial?
When we teach, we are often absorbed on the purpose, procedure and logistics of our lesson… Being an observer, rather than a teacher, releases us from a range of concerns and affords us the freedom to look at the lesson from a range of different perspectives", - Ruth Wajnryb.
It is believed that young teachers can benefit from video-based observation. However, no matter how much teaching experience you have, you can draw ideas and inspiration while watching lessons of your co-workers. One can find an original solution to a problem, for example, dealing with misbehaviour or time management etc. Beginning teachers have lots of theoretical knowledge. Sadly, not all of teaching techniques from a book work on every category of learners. In most cases we have to adapt them to our students. Observing other teachers lessons you will see how to apply different frameworks and methods in real classroom, adopt best practices and eliminates those which fail.
Video recording is better than physical presence. The latter can embarrass students especially of low levels and make a lesson less effective.
What things to observe?
First of all, it is a good idea to reflect on your lessons to find your weak teaching spots. You can make a video (or at least audio) recording of your lesson and analyse it. When you become aware of things to improve, watch a lesson of a more experienced colleague and pay attention to how they tackle problems that you have.
It is difficult to concentrate on all lesson procedure. While observing experienced teachers, limit the scope of what one observe and focus on two or three aspects such as:
- how they build rapport with learners
- how they give feedback and motivate students
- how they organize various interaction patterns
- teacher talking time and the way they reduce it
- how they grade the language
- how they tried to avoid using L1
- how they manage to make instructions clear and concise
- which eliciting techniques are used
- how they achieve aims at each stage of a lesson
- how an overall aim is achieved
- interesting activities you’d like to ‘steal’
- successful correction techniques which are used
- how they work with different skills and subskills (stages and procedure)
For example, in the following video there is a good example of eliciting techniques and giving/ checking instructions.
Where to observe?
You can find video recording of lessons:
- on youtube, for example, CELTA/TESOL lessons
- in a pack by Jeremy Harmer How to teach English and The practice of English language teaching , both with DVD ROM;
- on MOOC courses for teachers such as Futurelearn.com.
Do you use video-based observation as a method for upgrading your teaching skills? Share, please, in the comments below!