Formal Observations

posted May 15, 2015, 10:10 AM by Suzanne WARDINI   [ updated May 15, 2015, 10:25 AM ]
Dear Parents,

Today, I did my 56th and last formal observation this year of an ISD teacher. It took a great deal of time to observe our faculty, but it was well worth it as I learned a great deal about our teachers and our students. A formal observation is a specific process used by administrators to evaluate teachers. A formal observation has four parts: pre-observation conference, observation, post-observation conference and written feedback. It is one of many sources of information administrators use to evaluate a teacher’s performance and growth.

The purpose of the pre-observation conference is for the administrator to understand the purpose of the lesson and review the teacher’s plan for the class period. The actual observation will last between 45 to 80 minutes depending upon the age of the students. When I am in the classroom, I take written notes about what the teacher is doing, what the students are doing, and what is said. As an observer, I try not to be a distraction, but if the students are working independently, I will ask them some questions to determine if they have a clear understanding of the material and what is expected of them. In the post-observation conference, I ask the teachers two questions, what went well in the lesson and if they could do the lesson over again, what would they change or try to improve. These questions require the teachers to reflect on their practice and give me insight into their thinking and decision-making process.

The written feedback has multiple parts, my observations, the teacher’s reflections, my commendations and my recommendations. The observations are meant to capture what transpired during the lesson objectively as possible. The teacher’s answers to my two questions are recorded next. I then list my commendations, highlighting the positive aspects of the lesson and teacher’s practice. My recommendations are suggestions for improvement in lesson design, managing the students, and/or implementing the lesson.

In addition to the formal observations, I tried to get into the classrooms as much as my schedule allows to see teaching and learning in action. At the beginning of the year, I spent a great deal of time walking through the classrooms to get to know the teachers and students. I continued to do this throughout the school year as my schedule allowed. Being in the classrooms, with the students and teachers is my favorite part of the job.

The formal observations are a great way for me to get to know the teachers better as educators. I often learn as much, if not more, about them through our conversations in the pre and post conferences as I do watching them teach. They do require a significant time commitment as it takes three to four hours per teacher to complete all part of the formal observation. I do not intend to observe every teacher every year, although I will formally observe all teachers new to ISD. I did this as part of my professional goal to ensure high quality professional practice in the classroom.

Dr. Alan Knobloch