Suggestions for ELI Teachers
Who are Being Observed

  • Think about your preferences for where you would like the observer to sit, whether or not you're okay with them moving around among groups during group work, how you feel about their taking notes during the session, and any other aspects of their being a cooperative observer that you can think of. If you choose to meet with the observer beforehand, be sure to go over these items with them. That way there will be far fewer surprises on the day of the observation.
  • If you choose, you may want to capitalize on this observation for a few of your own action-research purposes. That is, you may want to ask the observer to pay attention to a particular point or two about your teaching practice or class. Here are a few possible areas for consideration:
Focus on the teacher
  • Teacher questions (e.g, display vs. referential questions)
  • Teacher talk (speed, volume, level of vocabulary)
  • Sequencing of activities
  • Gestures and body movement
  • Clarity of instructions
  • Lesson pacing
  • Teacher's time management
  • Organization of the lesson
  • Balanced attention across students
  • Teacher sensitivity to students' success, failure, misunderstandings, etc.
  • Teacher-student interaction
Focus on students or the classroom
  • Student-student interaction
  • Student talk in pair-work or small group work
  • Classroom set-up (where students sit, where teacher sits)
  • Effectiveness of a particular activity/task
  • Observable student interest
  • Clarity of materials/hand-outs
  • Time spent on task
  • It may be helpful for the observer if you prepare an extra set of materials for them.
  • It's important to inform students ahead of time that an observer will be coming to class and to explain to them the general purpose for the observation (e.g., that ELI teachers observe each other as part of teachers' continued professional development, that the observer is involved in a research project, or that ELI administrators typically observe a number of classes each semester). Be sure to point out that the students are not being evaluated.
  • At the beginning of the observation session, briefly introduce the visitor to the class.
  • Observations that involve fairly novice teachers and fairly experienced teachers can always create a bit of tension. If you're an experienced teacher and a novice teacher is observing you, there may be times that they make suggestions or offer up opinions that seem completely irrelevant, or even strike a sore nerve. While we hope that they will review the guidelines for observers, and use tact in how they discuss things they observed, but if they don't, try to take it with a chuckle and answer as if they had asked for your views on the task or lesson. At the same time, try to keep an open mind about their ideas; no matter how experienced any of us are, there's always room for reflection and professional development.
Similarly, if you're a novice teacher and are observed by someone with a lot of experience, try to gain as much from their knowledge as possible. Ask questions that might help them to feel free to suggest things that they know will be useful to your development, or questions that might help you to understand aspects of teaching you weren't confident about. At the same time, just because they have more experience, it doesn't mean that they are perfect or have all the answers. Again, we hope that the observer will have reviewed the guidelines and will work with you in an appropriate manner, but if they come across as too much of a know-it-all, try not to take things personally; just use what you can to make a few improvements to your teaching practice.
(Perhaps the best advice, whether you're a novice teacher, an experienced teacher, or anywhere in between, is to approach the observation with a positive, constructive attitude.)