Enhancing Performance of Teachers through Peer Observation

Ashim Kumar Paul

8 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Enhancing Performance of Teachers through Peer Observation

The role of quality teachers to ensure quality education aligned with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is vividly immense. In this regard, enhancing teachers’ performance is a must. Teaching performance involves a teacher’s pedagogical practice coupled with his/her competence to ensure students’ learning achievements and obtain levels of excellence in education. Experts opine that students’ academic achievements can be augmented by a good teaching performance. Hence, teachers should reflect on their pedagogical performance. In other words, teachers should be reflective in developing a comprehensive idea of their teaching performances. On the other hand, a strong connection exists between an academic institution’s assessment culture and teachers’ performances. More specifically, the teachers who go through an assessment culture demonstrate better performance. However, in the present context, such evaluative culture to enhance teaching performance is almost absent.  As a result, the new and less experienced teachers cannot know whether their teaching practice needs improvement or modification. Accordingly, they do not feel the need to improve their teaching practice and fall back on conventional teaching approaches that cannot better student learning outcome.

Hence, to ensure and enhance teaching performance, teachers’ individual needs should necessarily be addressed. Similarly, the teachers also need to be reflective about their teaching so that they can identify the strengths of their teaching practice and understand the areas to be improved. Without identifying the areas of teaching skills to develop, it cannot be possible to provide exact remedy for improving teaching performance. In this regard, peer observation (PO)can play a significant role to improve performances of teachers. PO refers to a teacher closely observing a lesson of other teacher with a view to developing an understanding of some features of instructional practices and classroom interaction. In other words, it is a reciprocal approach between two colleagues in the classroom where they willingly work in collaboration to find the strength and the weakness of their teaching for enhancing their instructional practices.Through PO, the observer can refine his teaching performance by watching the performance of a teacher and the observee can find a focused and specific feedback useful for enhancing his teaching practice as well. In short, both the observees and the observers find the prospect of mutually developing their teaching performance. Particularly, the new teachers find PO beneficial in terms of boosting up their confidence. As a result, teachers can learn new skills, instructional approaches and receive feedback from each other that contribute to making changes in them and building self-efficacy and trust between them. Accordingly, it substantially brings about good influences on the professional development of teachers. It further improves teachers’ self-awareness, self-criticality, self-reflection and self-esteem regarding curriculum, teaching practice and students’ learning outcome encompassing professional experience and performance. Thus, it helps teachers evolve their practices that better students learning outcome. Above all, PO offers the teachers a developmental learning opportunity to enhance their teaching performance.

However, various research sources show that peer observation can benefit teachers in diverse ways.

A Precious Tool for Professional Development

The PO process promotes a culture of sharing good teaching practices amongst the teachers. Thus, those who undergo PO process can hone their teaching performances. However, while the experienced faculty members appreciate PO as a tool for reflection, the new instructors consider PO as an approach to developing their instructional practices. It is because, PO helps both the observer and observee to understand their job role and spot the areas in their instructional practice for further improvement.

An Opportunity of Learning by Observing

PO offers the learning opportunity by observing a colleague’s teaching. This ‘learning by observing’ opportunity might help the teachers reflect upon their present teaching practice and opt for new ideas relevant and necessary for developing teaching performances. More specifically, in PO process, the observers get more benefited by enhancing their own instructional approach than they can do about developing the instructional practice of the observees.

Developing Collegiality

PO motivates teachers tonurture a culture of collegiality so that they can share and discusstheir teachingprospects and concerns. On the other hand, POenhancing their professional relationships helps them ward offthe feeling of stress and seclusion connected with the teaching job. Thus, PO is appreciated for offering the unique opportunity to share best teaching practices and work in collaboration that further enhances more respect for the colleagues and their teaching approaches.

Providing Reflective feedback

One of the aims of PO is to impart constructive feedback to the observee in order to ensure further improvement in instructional practice. In other words, reflective feedback lets the observee know about whether his teaching strategies work well or need improvement.  However, contrary to applause or reproach, the observer should address definite issues and provide the observed teacher with sufficient information for development. Hence,the observer shouldbe a critical friend instead of being ‘critical’ or ‘friend’ since it builds mutual respect and trust between the observer and the observee.

Guidelines for using Peer Observation

Although there are a variety of ways to use PO, the most commonly applied model is a three-step process: pre-observation stage, observation stage and post-observation stage. This three-stage process maximizes the professional performance of the teachers and promotes reflection and collaboration.

Pre-observation Stage

In a pre-observation meeting, both observee and observer come to terms regarding the initiation of PO. This stage allows the observee to share with the observer teacher about contextual information regarding the course, instructional strategies and philosophy, assessment procedures, and specific areas of focus during observation. On the other hand, the observer shares the observation process with the observee. Thus, this stage clarifies the goal of PO process and the roles of observee and the observer, establishes assessment criteria, and acts on building rapport between both teachers.

Observation Stage

The observer should reach early to be familiar with the classroom environment and let the students know about the observation process that its aim is to help teachers’ professional development and not to assess the pupils. During the observation stage, the observee should focus on teaching practices, time management, dealing with quiet students, motivating and overseeing students for learning activities; however, the observee should overlook the presence of the observer in the classroom. On the other hand, the observer should focus on the motivation, listening and learning of the students. While writing the observation note, the observer is also advised to focus on the instructional practice and use of teaching aids of the observee. The language used in the observation note for giving feedback should be objective, specific and non-judgmental so that the observee can be motivated rather than demoralized.

Post Observation Stage

The post-observation stage stands out as a vital part of PO process leading to enhanced teaching. Post observation stage focuses on three key themes: a review of the criteria and agreements, a review of learning outcomes of the watched lecture and an analysis of the lesson plan. Here, the observer provides the observee with feedback on the watched lesson and they will discuss, analyse and apply the essence of the feedback in future. The feedback should be insightful, specific, unbiased and reasonable. The more non-judgemental feedback is, the more likely the teacher is to incorporate feedback into his future teaching.  However, the observee should reflect on the feedback to bring about necessary changes in the instructional strategy.

Action Plan for Implementing Peer Observation

How Bangladeshi colleges can benefit from implementing Peer Observation

As many colleges are located in semi-urban areas, training opportunities for enhancing professional development are not often available for the teachers of the colleges. In this regard, PO can be an effective process that offers opportunities like ‘learning by observing’ enhancing professional development of the teachers. More specifically, when PO will be introduced, the teachers will get the opportunities of observing teaching strategies of one another which will help them reflect upon and bring about necessary changes in their current practices for further development. Especially, the newly appointed teachers can enhance their teaching performance by observing the teaching practices of the experienced teachers of the college. Since PO helps both the observer and observee to understand their job role and spot the areas for further improvement in their instructional practice, the novice teachers can improve their teaching performance by observing other teachers’ instructional strategies and receiving feedbacks on their own teaching practices from the peer teachers.

On the contrary, the experienced teachers can find PO as a tool for reflection. When they will observe the teaching practice of other teachers, they can evaluate the instructional practices of the teachers with much more insight developed through experience and accordingly, provide constructive feedback useful for enhancing teaching practices of new and less experienced teachers. Besides, the experienced teachers can update their own teaching performances by observing the instructional practices of other teachers who use cutting edge educational technology and approaches in the classroom. Thus, PO process will also allow the experienced teachers to modernize their teaching practices apart from sharing their experiences and reflective feedback to other teachers.

The current teaching practices in Bangladeshi colleges mainly follow the traditional approaches that do not challenge the teaching strategies and do not encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching. Accordingly, they do not feel the urge to improve their teaching practices and the expected students learning outcome cannot be yielded. Hence, with a view to enhancing students learning outcome through the reflective teaching practice, the existing teaching practice and its evaluation process need to be changed. The teachers should be inspired to be reflective and their teaching performances should be critically challenged and improved. 

The review of available literature suggests that PO has positive effects upon teaching performance through which students’ learning achievement can be ensured. Although teachers might confront some potential challenges like lack of time, heavy workload, feeling of boredom and uneasiness among the observers and observee teachers, reluctance to give ‘constructive’ feedbackduring and after the implementation of PO, these challenges can be overridden by some prospective strategies, Therefore, following the review, analyses and implications of PO process in higher education context introducing PO in the academic context of Bangladesh can be advocated and it can appearas a boon bringing about positive changes on teachers’ professional development as well as benefitting the learners.

 

[This article is an abridged version of a review paper

published in theInternational Journal of Asian Education (IJAE), Indonesia]

 

The writer is a BCS (General Education) Cadre officer, 34th BCS and teaches English at Ishwardi Government College, Pabna


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