Home' Independence : Independence Vol 38 No 2 Oct 2013 Contents 46 INDEPENDENCE VOL 38 NO 2 OCTOBER 2013
teachers offered possible ways
of facilitating observation.
For several schools the difference
· between a management review
and collegial professional learning
required additional exploration.
The TKDS survey
At TKDS we wanted to learn about
the attitudes and beliefs of staff in
relation to classroom observation to
inform change in our professional
learning program. Between August
and September 2012, staff members of
TKDS Senior School were invited to
anonymously answer a short survey
conducted via an online Google
document. Participation was voluntary.
Survey respondents had varying
years of teaching experience, ranging
from one year to over 20 years. Over
half of the participants had 'rarely'
been observed, with half 'rarely'
or never having observed another
teacher's practice. Nearly 70 per cent
of teachers who replied agreed that
classroom observation is a tool to
evaluate the teacher's performance.
This suggested that the difference
between an appraisal process and the
professional learning occurring through
collegial discourse had not yet been
internalised. Hence, it is not surprising
that 23 per cent of teachers reported
that peer observation made them feel
Nevertheless, 79 per cent of teachers in
the survey agreed that colleagues can
provide useful feedback that can be
immediately applied to their practice.
Respondents identified classroom
observation as an effective tool in
improving pedagogy. Surprisingly, the
same percentage of teachers strongly
disagreed that observation is a central
practice to their teaching. We were
left wondering why teachers have not
perceived a potentially transforming
practice to be central to their teaching --
a question to which only additional
future investigation into teachers'
underlying beliefs might answer.
As the program progressed, it became
clear that participating school leaders
believed peer observation to be of
pivotal importance to the teaching
profession. Conversation attempted
to identify and clarify practical issues
of the process. Discussions were
framed using a variety of routines and
observation foci were offered. Guidelines
were not rigid or prescriptive but rather
allowed schools to adopt models to meet
the needs of their school community.
Schools began implementing the
different approaches to observation,
which included tripod teams, analysis of
filmed lessons and 'walk throughs'. The
key principle, withholding judgment,
was highlighted in every activity.
Through discussion of professional
literature and analysis of recorded
lessons, the group of educators in
the program carefully considered the
influencing forces on peer observation
and challenges in implementation:
It was found that the physical
environment is of key importance to
classroom observation; schools with
open learning spaces reported greater
success. These spaces, in many cases,
determine teachers' current practices --
collaborative or isolated.
In most schools, thoughtful
timetabling and the use of relief
Anat Wilson is Senior School Learning Team Coordinator, The
King David School, Armadale, VIC. Here she describes how the
School is introducing peer observation as an integral part of teacher
PROFESSIONAL LEARNING ANAT WILSON
RESEARCH shows that the practice of
peer observation in teaching has the
potential to improve pedagogy and
allows teachers to receive constructive
feedback from peers. It also cultivates
collegiality; most importantly, it
can foster an environment in which
reflecting on our own practice is valued.
Though it has been common best
practice in many tertiary institutions
and part of past professional discourse
in education, it is only in recent years
that teachers in primary and secondary
schools have become open again to the
idea of a shared learning space.
Peer observation of teaching should
not be confused with an evaluative
performance-based review, which has
been separately defined in the literature
and identified as a hindering factor
to the receptive peer process. In the
peer observation model, it is critical to
focus on students' learning and on the
collegiality of the teachers involved.
In 2012 The King David School
(TKDS) participated in the Australian
Government Quality Teacher Program
facilitated by Independent Schools
Victoria. The program provided an
opportunity to examine current research
and the practice of peer observation.
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