One of my developmental goals for the year is to develop effective strategies for observing and feeding back to staff. My aim is that the resulting observations and feedback strategies contribute to growth in teacher effectiveness.
I plan to:
- Undertake professional readings related to goal.
- Explore possible approaches to undertaking classroom observation & providing feedback to staff.
- Seek regular feedback from staff as to the quality of observations/feedback.
- Visit other schools to observe and discuss observation/feedback systems.
In my mind I already had a starting point or a vision for the initial approach. This revolved around the learning walk concept, more specifically Cheryl Doig’s Future Learning Walks thinking and framework combined with the integration of elearning tools to capture the evidence during the observation and forming the foundation of the reflection. Another link in the chain was the Taxonomy of Reflection described by Peter Pappas to provide the structure for the reflective discussion.
Let’s briefly unpack each of these:
Future Learning Walks
The purpose of a future learning walk is to generate deep conversations about learning. It is an adaptive approach with the process co-constructed within the staff to meet the needs to the school. In practice it is a focused and regular walk through of classrooms/learning areas for a short period of time, with observations and data gathered, which is then discussed, reflected and projected on. Not just from a classroom teaching/learning level, the process can impact of school wide systems and organisation.
The key philosophies for me that guide a learning walks are:
- based on a culture of sharing and trust
- intergal to whole professional learning approach
- it involves students
- aligns to the teacher inquiry approach of reflection and continuous improvement
- agreed upon and co-constructed method and focus
Taxonomy of Reflection
A progressive framework, based on Bloom’s hierarchal taxonomy, for prompting reflection and discussion. It could be used very effectively after a walkthrough when either the observers and reflecting amongst themselves, or when the observee is reflecting on their own lesson/learning.
What do I like about this?
- Flexible framework for prompting reflection. You don’t need to start at the bottom and work up, rather ask any questions that will develop deeper reflection – in response to what you are hearing.
- Can be used in a huge range of situations, well beyond a professional observer/observee relationship. Student-student, student-teacher, self-assessment etc.
- Coach/mentor can use the taxonomy to ensure coverage of a range of questions but most importantly, HOT questions and thinking.
My thinking here puts the iPad squarely in the tool of choice category – portable, connected, reasonably unobtrusive, easily captures video, voice and photo. An all in one device for all phases of the process. Nothing new in using iPads for walkthroughs, maybe not in quite the same way I have in mind…
- Using the iPad for Paperless Walkthroughs
- iPads Help Sarasota County Principals with Classroom Walkthroughs
- Daily Walkthroughs with GoogleApps and the iPad
- Kyrene improves walk-through procedure with iPads
On the whole I was underwhelmed by all of these examples, which essentially turned the iPad into a digital clipboard, through using Google Forms or specific apps like Teachscape with a list of predifined criteria that was checked off during the walkthrough. My vision is a little different. I want to capture a digital narrative of the teaching and learning, enriched by multimedia, capturing authentic voice and examples.
So where to next?
- Future Learning Walks, as mentioned above, have an agreed upon focus which forms the basis for a observation/walkthrough. As part of our redevelopment of our school’s curriculum plan, we are currently unpacking and redefining what writing looks like at KHS. This involves clearly stating our shared beliefs of writing and the characteristics of an effective writing classroom. Once co-constructed and confirmed these will form the focus of a walkthrough during writing.
- While I like the Taxonomy of Reflection, I have been recently re-introduced to the Question Matrix, a framework for asking questions from basic recall to higher order similar to Bloom’s. I can see this as being an equally valuable framework to use for the same reasons as listed above, but perhaps more user friendly and a tool that is commonly used by students in their learning. The matrix layout means that you could also populate it to suit a particular focus or target.