Peer Observation & Evaluation

This piece will explore and analyse positive teaching methods and strategies noted during the observation of two of my peers. I will look into elements of my own practice that have an impact on the learners that were discussed following observations of me, and elements that I observed in sessions of my peers. These observations were an hour in length and were during normal sessions, with their regular groups. This helped us plan normally for these observations. The first observation I did of my peer was in the Art department, and for the purposes of this paper, I will refer to her as “RB”.

This work is for reference only, please note it has been through the TurnItIn system, therefore you cannot plagarise my work. All work is in British English.

At a different location, I witnessed a lesson delivered by another peer, “AT”, teaching marketing in a higher education setting. Here I will look at two particularly interesting and useful strategies my peers employed, seen during the observation and discussed afterwards.

My own teaching observations were in normal circumstances too. For the benefit of my observers, I included methods I regularly use, and continue to use. For RB, the use of video clips incorporated into my presentation acting as examples that illustrated my points and theory application. For AT, I emphasised the use of subtle behaviour management methods in conjunction with literacy embedding, team building, self assessment and peer assessment methods.

Whilst observing RB I looked for methods promoting positive learner behaviour in larger groups. Seeing the way RB dealt with challenging behaviour of various kinds, I found there were some effective and meaningful methods that helped learners progress. Since this challenging behaviour was ongoing from lesson to lesson, some learners were not engaging well with the tasks at hand. RB’s approach to mitigate this problem, and to keep some sense of control over the class of eighteen, was to visit each individual with a sticky-note pad and a pencil and to individually assess each learners progress. Conversing with them helped them stay less distracted, and assisted their understanding of what they needed to do. This was done not only in alignment with the outcomes and criteria that was required of the project but also in conjunction with student’s self-assessment, by asking questions such as “What do you think you need to do next?”. All these methods are high on Hattie’s effectiveness scale (2011), as tutor feedback and self assessment scores +1.13 on this scale, direct instruction +.82 and using the challenge of goals, +.52 all of which are good. Students were given praise on the subsequent moments of dicussion, as suggested by Daiker.

Some students were more capable of this than others, but I recognised this as an important part of the process as a whole. RB also combined this method with a specific seating plan, and a premeditated route that went from student to student, allowing her to have a greater degree of control over the student’s distracting conversations, their behaviour, and ultimately work progress. Allowing a degree of self assessment meant individuals were able to progress towards specific targets whilst feeling a sense of control over what they were doing, rather than being prescribed exactly how to go about their project. The most important aspect was that the list meant that the tutor was able to return and check their progress. It was like mini SMART target setting, which students do on a week by week basis, if not term by term. Following the observation, RB and I talked about how I can use this in my own practice – there are many occasions on which my students in creative media have different progress rates and various projects underway at any given moment. It is also useful because they can take the list away, carry on working on the tasks and allow themselves to see a breakdown of the project. They can come back to aspects of the project that have not been completed, and make progress in this more structured, albeit non linear manner. This is also useful as other tutors can get involved in the process with the student. They can see what is needing doing, what order it might need to be done in, and when and who set the tasks for the learner. I discussed with RB how this was an effective method for managing behaviour with this group in particular, as it was a larger, younger group of learners who had a number of distractions at any given moment. I feel that this group is similar in many ways to my own, who have been having some problems with motivation and engagement, which has been impinging their progress. This method will almost certainly make it into my sessions, with immediate effect.

Whilst observing AT I noticed a number of useful methods to help learners understand the worth of the content been taught. The most obvious to me was the use of his own work in the seminar  setting in order to be able to expand further on the projects logic and scope, and to help the students feel more engaged and have a personal connection with the project being used as an example. In this instance we are talking about adverts that were made a number of years ago during AT’s career in marketing. This demonstrated the Teacher-centred method of teaching (Wright, 2011), and showed how the simple addition of one’s own work in the lesson can create a greater level of interest from the learners. I feel that I can use this in my own practice because I have a large body of work that is directly relevant to my teaching subjects.

This also means that I have a large body of resources that I wasn’t previously taking advantage of, that being my own portfolio built up over a number of years, combined with my University portfolios. This will make my lesson planning more efficient and will keep content and examples more personal and explainable. Other examples that I could potentially have been using would perhaps not have had the same depth of knowledge behind them without additional research. I feel this will benefit the learners as they will also see how the subject they are learning, and the theory and logic behind it will help them become more employable in the future.

I explained to AT that this was the case, and that I was appreciative of having seen this method in his session. It became apparent that this method was a result of having used other peoples work as examples, but not always having full confidence in the the theory and logic (in terms of design and aesthetic considerations) because it was not his own creation, and one did not experience the design process that went with it.

In terms of teaching, learning and assessment, both of the methods observed are a result of having tried less effective methods of subject delivery. Both help highlight that planning and understanding are strongly influential in the speed and quality of outcomes.  Making a personalised list of jobs to do help students see their goals more clearly, showing students personal projects and commercial projects that have been a part of the tutor’s career shows them that there is a goal, objective, which to strive for, and it is tangible. It puts context back in place as to why they are doing the course, reminding them of their original reasoning for trusting the tutor’s knowledge and accepting their views as valid and meaningful.

Having collaborated with my peers in this way I feel that this is a useful exercise in sharing methods and use of resources. I expect in future I will observe colleagues of mine when the opportunity arises in order to further my teaching practice and to help them where I can to improve their own.  This can only be positive thing as teaching methods and resources are forever evolving, and this method of sharing is more experiential and therefore more valuable than just talking about it in the staffroom or sending emails with resource suggestions. It also promotes collaboration between colleagues through the debriefs that follow these observations. This affords the opportunity for those involved to exchange ideas and suggestions for improvement, which is positive not only for teachers but also for their learners from a long and short term standpoint.