Does lesson observation add value for initial teacher trainees? This second article based on my discussion with a current student teacher concludes that there are many missed opportunities, that peer reflection is the best learning he’s had, and that video-based self-reflection could be a giant leap forward. You can read the first interview here.
James* is on his final year placement at a primary school with 55% free school meals and some challenging circumstances.
Picking up on the area of self-reflection – have you been taught any skills to help you reflect on your lessons?
“No. It’s down to me really to compare how I planned the lesson, how I thought that it went and to try and make some assessments based on the students’ work.”
When your local or University mentor have fed back to you on your teaching, how have they done it, and what have they said?
“It’s all been pretty random really and qualitative, “that’s good, that needs improvement”, nothing really more than that. Not that much quantification of why I should make any changes. There have been some comments and questions about individual students in the class but nothing really probing which makes me think about my practice.
When my University mentor plans to visit the process of filling in the pre-visit information about the context of the lesson is usually the most valuable part of the process in making me think more deeply about the lesson. Then I start to plan a more ‘elaborate’ lesson as I’ve mentioned before.”
I think that I already know the answer to this question, but what has been the impact of the feedback? has it made you a better teacher?
“I see it as a chore to be honest. I don’t really know what the mentors are looking for. I’ve picked up some tips and tricks which I use; mostly around classroom control and organisation rather than actual teaching as such. I suppose that has made things potentially more efficient in my classroom which must help but nothing more than that.”
Has anyone else from your school observed you (SLT, other students, etc)? Did they give you feedback?
“No, not really. People are always coming and going, in and out of each other’s classrooms, getting resources etc but nothing more than that.”
Have other student teachers on your course experienced something similar?
“Actually, talking with a couple of other students on the course has been probably the best support whilst on placement. It’s reassuring that we have similar questions about our teaching, can share stories freely, bounce ideas off each other and talk things through. Yes, they have similar experiences and in one case probably worse where the local mentor teacher has given very little feedback or support.”
Previously, you said that you taught an “elaborate” lesson when your University mentor was in and observing. What do you think that the impact of that has been on learning?
“The initial impact is that the mentor hasn’t really seen the real me teaching. I’m much more conscious of sticking to my lesson plan and literally getting through it all, so that the mentor is impressed. They may be, I don’t know, but that may also mean that they aren’t giving me back accurate feedback also, upon which to develop. For the students it probably means I’m not as relaxed, maybe change my language and persona. I’d say that I’m maybe delivering more content from the interactive panel than on a learning journey with the students.”
When you first saw the 360-degree video from the Lessonvu system, what did you think?
“Amazing!, especially as the example video that I saw was similar to my primary classroom set up. Being able to zoom in and pan around exploring what each student was doing was fascinating; have they got a pencil in their hand, are they working, where are they looking, are they seeking help from another student? I could go on and on with the questions that come to mind.
I was particularly impressed at the idea of having two different views of two different students and seeing their reactions to the teaching. The idea of looking at the reaction of students with different learning needs would be amazing, and get me thinking much more about the lesson structure that I would use. Up until now the idea of video in the classroom has been very much about videoing myself teaching, with the Lessonvu video 360 video being able to look anywhere and therefore look at the reactions to the teaching would be very valuable and probably lead to me asking even more questions about my teaching!”
Is there a particular aspect of your classroom and your teaching that you would like to reflect on and develop further?
“Definitely checking the learning that is taking place for as many students as possible in my classroom. I know that I get carried away and enthusiastic sometimes on certain subjects, and that’s good. But is it appropriate and worthwhile for all the students in the class or am I distracting from learning for some of the students?”
What do you think would be the reaction from the school that you are working in currently, to having a Lessonvu system in your classroom to help you with your professional development?
“I think that it would be positive but at the same time I’m not sure what my local mentor would think. It would be good to be able to recall bits of video, review them myself and then discuss them with my mentor. It would be excellent to be able to share short bits of video with the students on my PGCE course and talk them over together. I could see that as great stimulus for discussion and development.”
What support do you expect to receive next year as an NQT? Have you heard about the Early Career Framework?
“I don’t know very much about the Early Career Framework yet. But, thinking about my friends in other professions than teaching and the structured training that they get on an ongoing basis, then that is what I’d like to get in teaching. I’m really interested in the process of learning and would like to further my own studies more academically. I’ve been recommended to look at the Chartered College of Teaching resources, but not taken it forward yet. I’ve got some job interviews coming up and given this conversation, I think that I’m going to be asking a lot more about the teacher training and support provided than I would have otherwise done.”
We wish James all the best in his career and thank him for his time. We are delighted that such able, young people are coming into the profession, and will no doubt add much to it. The task for the powers that be, is to support James and ensure that he stays in teaching for the long term.
*not his real name