The Controversies of Having Observations
There is an observation by a third party of learning taking place in a classroom or some other similar educational environment. They are not just for student teachers, they are also sometimes used when a call for major improvement has been made or new instructional techniques are needed. In some places, a classroom observation is mandatory for reasons such as job performance evaluations. They are typically done by other teachers, administrators, and instruction specialists. The observations can be conducted between just a few minutes and during a full school day.
The Disadvantage of a Single Teacher to One Classroom
Most classrooms in the U.S. have only one teacher to each classroom. This has been found to be quite a disadvantage for several reasons. First, they work pretty much alone, and this does not cover just their actual class time. They also often do their lesson plans alone, their style is the only one used in class, and their expectations can vary widely from one grade to the next or one class to the next. This is why class observations were established in the first place.
Observations in classrooms are being questioned and are facing a lot of opposition. There are several reasons for this. First, with the exception of the instruction specialists, many doing the observations are often not properly trained in observation evaluation. Second, there have been a lot of complaints about the other teachers and administrators not using evidence-based criteria in their evaluations. Third, there have also been a lot of complaints about the feedback being too inconsistent and unhelpful. Last but not least the teacher is usually let known of the observation ahead of time, which gives them time to prepare their students and make changes to their methods.
More Advantages and Disadvantages
It comes as no surprise that many teachers get very apprehensive about formal evaluations. Not because they necessarily think that they’re doing a bad job. First, it makes them fear that they may have blind spots that they’re not aware of. Secondly, that information gets put away in their permanent files and affects tenure decisions.
Ideally, some things that those who observe classrooms look for are rapport, whether the teacher is addressing questions in a way that the students easily understand, and has control over the classroom. Ideally, whether the teacher is familiar with and addresses each student’s learning style accordingly is also taken into consideration. The observer can provide immediate feedback to the teacher as soon as they are finished observing or the school day is over. That way, teachers can start to make their needed improvements immediately. Ideally, follow-ups would be scheduled until the teacher is on a more effective track.
Whether it’s a personal like or dislike of the teacher or a tendency to stereotype with age, economic, gender, or ethnic background, bias of any kind can seriously hinder the results. Not just because the teachers are often told about the evaluation ahead of time. It’s also that the observer gets to see the teacher and his or her classroom for just a few minutes to one day out of the other 180 school days. Also, if the observer is an administration, chances are, the students will significantly alter their usual behaviors.