Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘observation’

How to REALLY avoid MISFIRES with Feedback Sessions (…NOT Part 08)

In Classroom Teaching, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness, Teacher Training on 29/02/2012 at 8:57 pm

Is that a gun in your pocket – or are just really happy that you are finally a classroom observer?

In the recent mini-series on Misfires in Classroom Observations, I introduced the idea of the ABC’s of Classroom Observation – basically, these can also be read as “the ABC’s of Quality Improvement in Education”.

But, it dawned on me that I had not really spelled out what I really meant with the “C”:

Getting from A to B is pretty “easy” –

 A = Say what you mean! Mean what you say! Then, “walk-your-talk”!

 B = “Build it and they will come” – just make sure it’s “fit-for-purpose”!

…in theory!

But, it is the “C” that, well, that takes a bit more care, consideration and communication. I know that I said (in Part 04):

I’m getting good at this – maybe I should re-train as a “political lobbyist” or “advertising executive”! 

Mmmmm – can I come up with a “formula” for this one?


Communicating and contextualising classroom observation in the relationships of the school =

People, I say again:

I have had the pleasure of meeting loads and loads of classroom observers over the years – and, I can say that all of the “best” CLASSROOM OBSERVERS…(yes, you can “smell” a list coming a mile away, can’t you?):

…(really, really) “know their stuff” when it comes to TEACHing (and, more importantly, LEARNing)

…have some form of ESP when it comes to “seeing and analysing classroom interaction patterns” (remember those teachers with “eyes in the back of their heads”) 

…pay as much “attention to detail” as they do in looking for the “big picture”

…know the value of “service” (and actually like being called “servant leaders”)

…love “recognising others” and “giving praise” (all the time)

…are “authentic, open communicators” who can build “trust” naturally (and from day one)

…have uncanny “relationship-building abilities”

…know that they have two ears and one mouth (and use them in proportion)

…ask amazingly “sensitive and non-judgmental questions”

…are both “low-ego” and “low-maintenance”

…are NOT afraid of “having difficult conversations” (whenever needed) and know the value of “tough love”

…(but also) know when to “back down from a fight” and suggest a “time-out”

…do NOT “sweat the small stuff” and know when to let a few things “slide” (it’s OK…really OK to do this)

…(really, really) care about those around them and those they work with

…have masses of “emotional literacy”

Sounds like I am describing “most women”, yes guys? So, I guess it will be no surprise when I say:

…are (frequently) the female of the species

Most of us have to make do with only a handful of these…but I, for one, have seldom found that my genitalia get in the way of helping others.

The thing is that as we look at this list more carefully, a couple of notions stand out:

  • CARE

So, when I start working with a group of teachers or administrators on building their classroom obervation abilities, I NEVER start with the so-called “technology” of a system.

I talk about those three little notions.

By far one of the best ways to do this is to enlist the support of Jedi Master Covey (you knows how I loves me Covey)!

Almost everyone (and my dog, Dexter) has a bank account these days so it’s not that difficult for most people to see how being “in the black” or “having a healthy balance” can be applied to our relationships – or how being “overdrawn”, “in the red” or simply  “bankrupt” with our nearest and dearest is not too healthy. And, often means we end up on the sofa (or, in the dog-house)!

Covey presents the concept of the Emotional Bank Account as a…

…a really powerful metaphor for those who about to walk into “the line of fire” that can be classroom observation.

OK, I also like to have a bit of fun and push the envelopeusing my own marriage and the things I should do and say more to “pay back” my wonderful wife for just putting up with me (and my blogging)!

But, it’s not just “paying back” or “faking-it-till-we-make-it” – we have to mean what we say…and, building up those “reserves” come in handy when we “screw up”.

Trust me – there is not a human being (or even a husband) on the planet that will not screw up…this week or next.

We also look at how the concept works within the wider environment of our schools, colleges and universities – through some “mini-cases” (these work wonders, BTW):

You get the point – but know this, I have actually “witnessed” many of these “true stories”!

The real point is…what we are really trying to do is highlight the importance of care, trust and relationships when we are working on classroom observation. Many observers simply do not have the “credits” in the bank to get away with making the type of comments Michael shared with us in his post:

  • You talked too much at the beginning when giving instructions.
  • You didn’t talk enough throughout the lesson.
  • Students didn’t speak out in front of the whole class.
  • You didn’t correct errors enough.
  • You didn’t pre-teach any vocab.
  • You didn’t write anything on the board.
  • You didn’t use the textbook.

What makes any observer think it is OK to try and get away with these kinds of “remarks” – until you have made a deposit or two in the ole Emotional Bank Account?

Position power, perhaps! True – but remember, “with great power comes great responsibility” – even Spiderman knows this!

The thing is – and they do not call me “Fair-Play Tones” for nothing! Teachers, you really need to re-think any class where you do not use the textbook – and, God forbid, not correcting all those terrible errors!

Christ, I hate checklists!

Classroom observers, more than most, have to follow Covey’s “golden rules”:

As I noted at the start of this post, the ABC’s are about the whole of “school life” – not just classroom observation. That last one, though, is critical for observers – “confidentiality” of feedback discussions.

Break that rule – and see if anyone will EVER trust you in “post-conference” again….

…and, I don’t care if you wear a bit of lipstick from time-to-time!

Personal MISFIRES with Classroom Observation (…NOT Part 07)

In Classroom Teaching, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Training on 29/02/2012 at 2:09 pm

Those of you that have been following allthingslearning will have probably picked up that I have been “obsessed” with MISFIRES of late.

My daughter has just told me that she will unsubscribe from the blog, if I write Part 07 – so I will not! 

Michael Griffin (aka @michaelegriffin), working from Seoul, has done that…


Michael and I “met” and got chatting on Twitter (what a wonderful “community-builder” it is) as I built up my recent mini-series:

 Now, you see why my daughter is talking about emancipating herself from me and me blog!


I’d been planning on writing up a series on the “whoops-a-daisies” many of us face with classroom observation for ages – I started a few months ago and did an “exposé post” (CLASSROOM OBSERVATION – What Works, What Matters?) on what a “terrible observer” I must have been in my “youth”…



However, it was not until I came across a a couple of recent blog posts:

…that I decided to “pixilate” and “blogathon” my thoughts on why it is (IMHO) that we get it wrong just so bloody often.


I’m so happy to see that Michael has done an even better job in the “exposé post” department and really loved his willingness to be so open, honest and transparent

…these 3 little things ar so important to REAL LEARNing and helping us all avoid the misfires!

Thank you for sharing this Michael…


Michael’s post: 

Lately I have been doing a lot of work with Korean public school teachers who will be observers and mentors in their schools. I have been wanting to share my experience as an observee for quite some time…

Before I start I will share a little bit about the context of my story, which occurred at a language school attached to a university in Seoul. The language school had an intensive English program (among other programs) where students studied for 30 hours a week with a variety of teachers and had classes like reading, writing, listening, and grammar. Students at lower levels also had two speaking classes. One was called “Practical English” and the other was called “Learning to Speak.” The former was supposed to be more focused on accuracy and speaking in situations while the latter was focused on fluency and was considered a precursor to discussion classes…

Observations were generally a nebulous mix of development and evaluation. This means that suggestions and critical feedback (along with the occasional positive point) were given with an eye to improving teaching and overall customer satisfaction but the observations were also a chance for the Director to think about potential re-hirings.

Teachers didn’t really know what the criteria was and didn’t really know what to expect in the post lesson conference.  There was no checklist. There were no guidelines.

Also, teachers didn’t know when they would be observed. The director didn’t want teachers to prepare too much for the lesson and it seemed that she wanted to “catch” people teaching in their normal way. Of course, there was no pre-lesson conference or any discussion except, “I will be observing your next class in 15 minutes if that is OK.” There had to be a very good reason for it not to be OK and teachers almost always accepted this. 

From what I could gathered from experience and other teachers the post-lesson conference with the Director was generally pretty free flowing with the Director asking a (very!) few questions and then doling out suggestions and pointed critiques. 

Does this sound like a recipe for success in observation and feedback?

Click HERE to read on…