Part of your PD work this week involves planning for peer observations to be carried out sometime during the remainder of the second quarter. Our shared study of Whatever It Takes has not explicitly discussed the use of peer observations, yet they are an effective means of building the shared trust and understanding of our professional needs that are the foundation of the professional learning community. As you work with your teams to plan, consider these tips:
Identify objectives and establish context. While this isn't a formal observation by your building administrator, it is important we have a sense of expectation as both observers and practitioners. In your groups, you should discuss what you want your colleague(s) to look for while they are observing your class. In addition, you should provide your observer(s) with a context for the lesson (i.e. student objectives, the lesson's place in the unit, means of assessment, etc.).
Decide on a means of recording and sharing observations. For formal observations, your building principal uses the district-developed evaluation tool to record notes and share feedback. These peer observations, however, do not need to be that formal. Make sure you and your colleagues collaborate to create an effective yet efficient structure for recording observations and providing feedback. If you would like some suggested formats for this, please leave a comment on this post. In order to adhere to the PD calendar, you might want to plan to meet with your group during your common planning time, team time, or collaboration time to plan and/or debrief.
Know and understand these are nonjudgmental. As educators, we want to ensure our students are in safe, comfortable, judgment-free environments. Likewise, as professional colleagues, we want to ensure we can observe one another with mutual understanding and respect. There is no single quality or formula that defines a great teacher, yet it is clear MstM has a committed, knowledgable, and trustworthy staff. That said, we all have the opportunity to learn from one another through these observations.
If you can think of other tips for effective peer observations, please leave a comment. Enjoy the time in each others' classrooms!