Observations

DUE: IN STAGES                

You can learn a great deal about effective teaching from talking with others about teaching and from watching others teach -- not to imitate what others do but to heighten your awareness of what can be done. This assignment offers you the opportunity to observe three class sessions taught by three different teachers.  Guidelines for the lessons-learned paper are at the end of this page.

Do not make the mistake of thinking this assignment will be easy.  It's not complicated, but observing to learn requires considerable concentration.  And as a teacher, you have to observe to learn about your students and your teaching ... while you teach!

Your objective for the observation experience is to focus on what is happening in a "live" instructional situation and to think about why things might have happened as they did. You are not being asked to rate the teacher's teaching.  Hopefully, this assignment will help you to further develop your ability to analyze classroom instruction -- a process essential to improving your own teaching effectiveness.

You should intend to learn from these experiences, so approach these three observations with a clear purpose of your own.  You should observe the skills of the teacher regardless of the teaching strategy being used.  You should pay attention to student reactions and interactions in the class. You want to discern the teacher's goals and observe how plans are implemented to achieve those goals. 

For the first observation you will choose your partner, however, we will choose who you observe. We will let you know in advance the instructor you will observe, and as a team, you and your partner will make the appropriate arrangements to view this instructor. For this first observation, I expect you to make arrangements to talk with/interview the teacher either before or after you observe the class session. We will provide you with a list of potential interview questions that you may use as a guide for your conversation. The point of the conversation is to learn whatever might help you to better interpret and understand what happens during the class you observe. After you interview AND observe the instructor, you will individually post the answers to your interview questions on the course blog.  We will then discuss your interview and observation during class the following day. Our class discussion will center on what all of you learned from your observations. This gives you an opportunity to learn how others approach the observing process and to ask questions about ways to concentrate, focus and discern when observing.  September 23 will be designated for you to complete the first observation, but you and your partner may do it on your own time before then.

For the second observation you will choose the instructor you want to observe, however, we will choose your partner. You will observe someone who has demonstrated exemplary teaching, based on the two links provided for professors who have won teaching awards.  We'll spend some class time to compare observations and conclusions.  October 2 will be designated for you to complete the second observation, but you and your partner may do it on your own time before then.

The third observation will be done in class.  Ben Ward will arrange an opportunity for us to observe an online class together on November 4. We may have to meet in another classroom, but we'll announce that ahead of time. If possible, we'll have the teacher join us so you can ask questions.  

Your written paper.  A word to the wise -- document your observations, analyses, and interpretations as you experience the observations.  Do not assume you will remember what you observed and what you thought about what you observed! 

 


General Guidelines for Lessons Learned Paper on Observations

Due: November 13

PLEASE DO NOT USE THE TEACHERS' NAMES.

The lessons-learned paper should be based upon what you learned from your three observations and from conversation with co-observers as well as with the teachers you observed.  I'm especially interested in knowing how you might use what you have learned to help you as a teacher.

There is no set length for this paper.  Some will have much more to say than will others.  However, I expect you to put time and thought into these observations and your interpretations of what you have seen ... and your paper should reflect that time and thought.  Talk with me if you have concerns about this "open-ended" paper.