|ICELT-004| How to do your Peer Observations (PART 1)

Hello Exam Seekers,

As an I-CELTee, you will be assigned to do a few tasks and assignments as well as a few peer observations. I cannot say the exact number, because depending on the place that you are taking the course and the length of the course, you might do more or less, than what Cambridge requires at first.

In my case, I had to do 4 assignments, 4 tasks and 8 peer observations. One assignment and one task every two months. You don’t have much freedom in relation to the assignments and tasks, because according to the center and their calendar, you will have to do a specific task or prepare a specific assignment. However, with the peer observations, you will have more freedom to do them.

At first, you might not understand why you are doing the peer observations, since most people who take the ICELT are teachers already and most have been inside of a classroom teaching for a long time. Moreover, there’s the fact that we, as teachers, don’t have much time to do some peer observations since we have so many classes to teach, so many lessons to prepare, and now the ICELT to plan and prepare…

…But you have to keep in mind that the ICELT is: In-Service Certificate in English Language Teaching. Therefore, it is a course, which is all about evolving as a teacher, and watching your peers’ classes will help you develop your skills. Being in the classroom as an observer opens up a range of experiences and processes which can become part of the raw material of a teacher’s professional growth.

According to Classroom Observation Tasks: A Resource Book for Language Teachers and Trainers (Wajnryb, Ruth:1996:7),

“When we teach, we are often so absorbed in the purpose, procedure and logistics of our lesson that we are not able to observe processes of learning and interaction as they occur through the lesson. Being an observer in the classroom, rather than the teacher, releases us from these concerns and affords us the freedom to look at the lesson from a range of different perspectives outside that of the actual lesson plan of the teacher.”

This topic is a bit long, that is why we are going to divide it into some parts. The first part is the BEFORE/DURING/AFTER. What and why you should do during these periods of observing a class.

Differently, from the CELTA, which you observed another CELTee, the ICELT observations are not necessarily focused on watching your course peers, but your peers in real life. When you observed you CELTA peers, they knew the purpose of you being there, meanwhile, your peers will not understand why you are watching their classes. Classroom observations are not always a welcome intrusion for the classroom teachers involved, and the observed teacher is often too serious thinking that he will be judged at all times by you. So I came up with a few easy steps to take this situation easy.

BEFORE

1st Visit levels you are interested in, either because you have taught them or because you teach them, and want to learn more about them.

2nd Once you chose, talk to the teacher. Explain to him/her that you are taking a course, which demands you to watch other people’s classes and analyze them according to some points. Add that you are not going to judge them or report them to the coordinator or something like that.

Make it clear to the teachers you are visiting that this is a learning experience for you and the report you will write will focus on what you learned from observing the lesson and that there will be no names involved what so ever.

3rd After having talked to the teacher, which should be a month notice if possible, give him another notice a couple of classes before. Ask your colleague in advance if you may visit his or her lesson and that you will be ready to discuss it with them, if they wish, in a friendly fashion way.

4th Once you are done with that, choose if you are going to make it on a piece of paper or straight to your laptop. So get to the class a couple of minutes earlier and get settled. Set your computer or your piece of paper on a separated desk, which you know that will not impede the class to happen, nor will disrupt or disturb the teacher and the lesson.

Take this opportunity to talk to the teacher and get some information about the group, since you are required to provide a Group Profile.

5th Make sure you know what you are going to observe. When you are taking the ICELT, you have to have focus. It’s like working with a microscope and looking at one thing at a time. So make sure of what you are going to observe and print the correct paper notes (or leave the correct file open on your laptop).

6th Have in mind that you are an intruder in someone else’s class. Therefore, the classroom teacher should introduce you and clearly state the purpose of your visit, so that students are not caught off guard or get tense during the class. If a student in the class asks you a direct question (e.g., Are you a teacher too? Are you here to test us?), you should answer as briefly as possible. Visitors should not initiate or pursue conversations unnecessarily.

DURING

7th Get your notes ready and start writing down. Trying to see a lesson as a whole can be an enjoyable experience now and again, but focus on what you are observing. Make as many notes as you can before converting them into a coherent text.

8th As a visitor to the class you should be as unobtrusive as possible.

AFTER

8th Thank the teacher and the students. Tell the teacher that when your notes are ready, they will be available for them if they want to see it.

9th Sit down at a quiet place and do the rationale about the lesson filling all the template.

10th Cambridge demands proof of these visits, so have them prepared. However, some centers require you to sign some papers saying that you actually did the visits and they attest that.

11thMake sure everything is okay and send it to your tutor.

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OBSERVATIONS:

Remember that the aim is to learn from observing and to reflect on our own practice, so make sure the peer observation dates are spread out so that you can observe and rationalize about it.

Between observations, you can reflect on your own teaching and evolve by avoiding making the mistakes you’ve already watched.

Sometimes, after this rationale, you may think it is necessary to talk to your peer. So, if you feel that it’s necessary to talk to the observed teacher giving him feedback, feel free to do that. Our next post on the subject we will mention ways to facilitate that talk and how to fill in the templates more interestingly and relevantly.

Be sure to follow us!!! Soon we will bring part two of this post!

Have a nice weekend,
Patty and Eve

 

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