Observations


 

This page covers:

  • What is an observation  
  • Support for observations
  • Teaching practice 
  • Preparing to be observed
  • Checklist
  • During the session
  • After the session
  • Evidencing teaching practice
  • Resources for immediate download

What is an observation?

An observation is usually carried if you are working towards a qualification. For example, if you are taking the Diploma in Education and Training, you will be observed for eight hours over the duration of the course. If you are a qualified teacher, assessor or quality assurer, you might be observed as part of your organisation's quality procedures and/or for an appraisal or a review.

A more experienced person will observe you, and will give you feedback as to how you can improve, or what further learning and development you might need. This person might be your trainer/assessor, mentor or supervisor in your workplace.
Don't be apprehensive about the observation process, it's to help you to improve and to give you advice and support.

If you are due to be observed for a micro-teach session, please click here for details. If you are due to be observed as part of an assessment or quality assurance qualification, the following text might help, albeit it's in a different context.

 

Support for observations

  • A few resources are available to purchase with immediate download upon checkout. Just scroll down this page. 
  • More resources are available for qualifications by clicking here.
  • Videos can be seen by clicking here. 
  • Reading lists can be found here.

The following text is adapted from the book in the picture.


Teaching practice

Teaching practice is about demonstrating your skills and knowledge as a teacher or a trainer.  It’s called practice as anyone undertaking it is not yet qualified. It will give you actual experience of what it’s like to be a teacher, in a real teaching and learning environment.

Teaching practice is a great way for you to try out everything you have been learning during your time working towards a teaching qualification.

 

Teaching practice is also a chance to try out new things, and to learn from your mistakes. If something didn’t work, you just need to reflect why, and consider what you could do differently next time.

Effective teaching practice should include:

  • using different teaching practice locations, settings or contexts
  • teaching across more than one level of learning
  • teaching a variety of learners and age ranges
  • teaching individuals and groups
  • gaining subject-specialist knowledge from mentors and observers.
You might need to demonstrate the minimum core skills as part of your session. A template is available for this purpose towards the end of the page in the resources section.

 

Preparing to be observed

The time length of each observation might vary, for example, half an hour, one hour or more. 
Prior to the observation, you could make a visual recording of yourself to look for aspects you do well, and areas you could develop.

You will need to let your learners know that you are making a recording and that it’s to help you. You will need their permission if they are included and it’s best to check with your organisation to make sure you are allowed to do it.

All observers will want to satisfy themselves that you are using teaching, learning and assessment approaches and activities effectively. They will want to see that learning is taking place, that you are including all your learners during the session and differentiating for any particular needs.

Make sure all the materials you have prepared are of good quality, are varied, address inclusivity and differentiation, and are free from spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. Don’t try and prepare too much at the risk of showing off, or use any equipment you are not totally comfortable with. Make sure you have a spare activity in case you have extra time available, and extension activities to stretch and challenge learners when necessary. 

Always have a contingency plan, i.e. hard copies of an electronic presentation in case of an equipment malfunction. You could also consider which activities you could reduce or remove if you are running out of time. Check the environment and equipment beforehand, and complete any health and safety checks and/or risk assessments. Make sure you have enough of everything for the number of learners you expect, plus a spare if possible. 

You should have a session plan which shows a clear aim (what you want to achieve) and objectives or tasks which your learners will carry out. You should also state how you will check that learning will take place i.e. the different assessment methods you will use. If possible, it would be useful to ask your observer to comment on your session plan beforehand.

Above all, don’t panic; keep calm and don’t try to do too much. You are still learning, and you will need to work at things over time. If you make a mistake, it’s fine and it shows you are human. Just be honest with yourself and learn from it.



Checklist

  • Confirm the date, time and location with your observer.
  • Ask to see the assessment checklist or observation report that will be used. It’s useful to see what your observer is looking for. If you have a copy of a previous report, read it to refresh your memory and to ensure you have addressed any action or development points.
  • Inform any other staff such as your supervisor and/or mentor.
  • Inform reception of your observer’s name; you might need to reserve a parking space for them, inform them of public transport, and/or confirm directions to the venue. Your observer might also need to sign in and out of the building, wear a name badge, and be informed about relevant health and safety procedures.
  • If your observer is due to arrive prior to your session, arrange to meet them beforehand.
  • If you will have started your session before your observer’s arrival, make sure they know where to go, and prepare yourself to be interrupted when they do arrive.
  • Check you have the necessary documents and resources. These might include your scheme of work, session plan, group profile, handouts and other resources. Your observer might ask for electronic or hard copies in advance.
  • Check all the equipment you plan to use is in working order.
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the subject you will deliver.
  • Prepare your room so that there is somewhere for your observer to sit. They will need a position away from you and your learners, but where they can see what is going on. They might also need to wear some specialist clothing if applicable, for example, a laboratory coat or safety goggles.
  • Arrange for a quiet place to talk to your observer after your session. If they are not staying until the end, ask when you will have the opportunity to receive their feedback.

During the session

Being observed, even if you are an experienced teacher, can be a bit worrying or stressful, as you will want to deliver a perfect session. However, you are being observed every time you deliver a session by your own learners, it’s just that they don’t give you formal feedback afterwards. If you are nervous, don’t let your learners know, as they probably won’t notice. You are human though, and if you make a mistake, your observer will be watching to see that you put it right.

 

You could give your observer details of your individual learners, perhaps in the form of a group profile. This will show how you will be differentiating to meet their individual needs, along with strategies to support them. Your observer may also want to see your record of attendance/register, and other relevant administrative documents. These might be electronic rather than hard copies, but they should still be accessible.

You might want to inform your learners in advance that the session is to be observed, and that you expect them to behave in their usual way. Otherwise, they might feel they should be quiet, not ask any questions, or ask too many questions to appear helpful which will give a false impression of what normally occurs. 

You could introduce your observer to your learners and state they are observing the session, not them as individuals. Having a stranger in the room might lead to some behaviour issues if you haven’t forewarned your learners. If so, you must deal with these as soon as they arise and do it in a professional manner. 

Try not to look at your observer whilst they are with you, they are not part of your group and will not participate in any activities. Don’t embarrass them by trying to involve them. They will be making lots of notes throughout the session; therefore try not to be concerned if they don’t appear to be watching you all the time, they will still be listening to what’s going on. Your session not your observer.

Don’t worry if you don’t follow your session plan exactly. As your session progresses you will naturally adapt the timings and activities to meet the needs of your learners. Your observer will not mind if you don’t keep to your timings as it will show you are being flexible to meet the needs of your learners.

Try and use a variety of teaching and learning approaches and activities to stretch and challenge your learners. If possible, use technology to support the teaching and learning process. Above all, make sure learning has taken place. If you are not using formal assessment activities, make sure you use informal activities which will enable your learners to demonstrate the progress they have made during the session.


After the session

If your observer stays until the end of your session, they should be able to give you verbal feedback when your learners have left. If this is not possible, make sure you ask your observer when you will receive their feedback which might be oral, electronic or paper based. 

Ideally, the feedback should be given in a quiet area which will enable you to listen and focus upon what is said. You might also like to make some notes.

Hopefully, the feedback you receive will reassure you that you are teaching correctly, and that learning is taking place. However, if you receive some negative feedback don’t take it personally, your observer has only seen a snapshot of what you are capable of. You might be given a copy of your observer’s completed report, which you should read carefully. It would be useful to refer to this when writing your evaluation of how you felt the session went. Your observer might have identified some points for your further training and development which you hadn’t considered. As part of your teaching qualification, you might be required to keep a diary or a learning journal (see the resources at the end of this page). This will help you reflect upon what you did, or did not do, over time. You might like to show it to your mentor or your supervisor to gain their feedback and advice.

Some questions to ask yourself as part of the evaluation process could include:

  • How well did I plan and prepare my session?
  • How well did I perform and how did I feel about what I did?
  • What went well, what didn’t go well and why?
  • Did I use a variety of teaching and learning approaches?
  • Did I check that learning was taking place?
  • Were my learners motivated and actively engaged with the topics?
  • Did I meet the observation criteria? If not, how can I meet them, or exceed them next time?
  • What have I found out about myself?
  • What happened that wasn’t meant to happen, and how did I deal with it?
  • If I was to deliver this same session again, what would I change and why?
  • What can I improve upon and why?

You might find it useful to ask yourself the questions in the bullet list after every session, and not just after an observed session. Make sure you are honest, there’s no point being otherwise as you will only be misleading yourself. Don’t be hard on yourself either, teaching practice is a chance to learn from your mistakes, and to improve what you are doing. Your observer should be experienced at what they do and their advice will prove valuable to your career. 


Evidencing teaching practice

Whilst you are carrying out your teaching practice you will accumulate a lot of documents. These can be used as evidence, or proof, of what you have achieved. 

Your observer will not see all of your sessions, therefore you need to prove that you have delivered a certain number of teaching practice hours with learners. Your sessions might not have been perfect, which is not a problem as long as you have learnt from the experience. 

The evidence you could provide to support your teaching practice can include (in alphabetical order):

  • action plans/individual learning plans
  • assessment plans, feedback and decision records
  • observer’s reports, checklists and feedback
  • evidence of demonstrating the minimum core
  • group profile
  • initial and diagnostic assessment results
  • learning journals or diaries
  • learning support records
  • notes/emails showing liaison and communication with others
  • resources such as copies of electronic presentations, handouts, learner activities
  • schemes of work
  • screenshots of virtual learning environments, website pages or other sites and electronic resources you have created or contributed to
  • self-evaluation reports
  • session plans
  • witness testimony, i.e. from your mentor.

All the evidence you provide should be accessible to your observer if they ask for it. You might keep some or all of it electronically, or place copies in a ring binder or a file. If you save it electronically, make sure it is safe and secure, and make backup copies.

You may need to keep a log (see resources below) of the amount of time spent undertaking your teaching practice. You might be given a form to complete for this or you could design your own. You could give each piece of evidence a number, which will refer to where it’s filed (whether this is electronically or as a hard copy). Each piece of evidence could be referred to many times.


Resources available for immediate download


Teaching observation template (in Word) (£2.00)
(Ref HC013A)
A 3 page template which can be used and/or adapted for the observation of teachers and trainers during sessions. It is ideal for anyone working towards a teaching qualification or gaining QTLS status.


Observation checklist for the Certificate in Education and Training (in Word) (£4.00)
(Ref HC013)
A 6 page template with detailed aspects and comment boxes. Guidance notes are included. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.


Observation and question checklist for assessment unit: Assess occupational competence in the work environment (in Word) (£4.00)

(Ref AC002)
A 4 page template with detailed information and questions for each of the assessment criteria. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.


Observation and question checklist for assessment unit: Assess vocational skills, knowledge and understanding (in Word) (£4.00)

(Ref AC003)
A 4 page template with detailed information for observing and asking questions for each of the assessment criteria. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.


Observation and question checklist for IQA unit:
Internally assure the quality of assessment (in Word) (£4.00)

(Ref IC002)
A 5 page template with detailed information for observing and asking questions. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.


Observation and question checklist for IQA unit: Plan, allocate and monitor work in own area of responsibility (in Word) (£4.00)

(Ref IC003)
A 4 page template with detailed information for observing and asking questions. Can easily be adapted to suit your own requirements.


Template - Teaching Practice Log (in Word) (50p)
(Ref AT021)
1 page blank template in Word of a teaching practice log. Enables learners to document their teaching practice hours, along with their supporting information and evidence. See below for a handout of information along with a completed example: Ref H9016

Completed Example - Teaching Practice Log (£1.00)
(Ref H9016)
2 pages of information relating to teaching practice, including a sample completed teaching practice log, and a list of possible evidence to support the teaching practice. See above for a blank template of a teaching practice log in Word: Ref AT021

Minimum core checklist (£2.00)
(Ref ATMC01)
A comprehensive 3 page checklist containing all the personal skills which a teacher must demonstrate for literacy, language, numeracy and ICT.
This document is in Word to enable a trainee teacher to add text to show how they have demonstrated each of the skills.

Template – Reflective Learning Journal (in Word) (50p)
(Ref AT005)
1 page template which can be used as a reflective learning journal. Helps focus thought by explaining, describing, analysing and revising actions. See below for a completed example: Ref I9015A

Completed Example of a Reflective Learning Journal (£1.50)
(Ref I9015A)
2 page completed example of a reflective learning journal. See above for a blank template in Word: Ref AT005


More resources are available,

click here for details.