Monday, November 16, 2009
Full Clinical Observation--Post Observation Conference
What strengths and/or improvement areas did you notice about the environment and tone of the post-observation?
When watching the video of my post-observation conference, I noticed immediately that the conference exhibited a collegial, conversational quality which I contribute to my choice of settings. I intuitively chose to use the work area of our media center because it is out of the way of traffic and I knew that it would be conducive to creating an uninterrupted environment. A bonus about using this space is that it contains a round table. In hindsight, I reflected that when my administrator conferences with me, her preferred choice of setting is her conference room, with a round table! I personally like this format and I think it was instinctive to use this space for this activity because of my positive experiences with this setting.
When I first viewed the video, I had the sound muted and I just cued in on the nonverbal behavior; i.e., body language, eye contact, hand gestures, etc. Because we were sitting side by side, the teacher and I were both able to view the post-conference write-up together and I was able to address the artifacts I gathered by pointing to them at the same time that the teacher was viewing the documents. I think the environment that I created enhanced the conversation, but it was also obvious that the teacher and I had built up a relationship prior to this activity. Our first contact was when I initially approached this teacher about this assignment. The second was our pre-conference meeting where I gathered information from the teacher about the class, the particular lesson that I was observing and the curricular unit that it is a part of. I also had the opportunity to work with this teacher on an unrelated project earlier in the year and have come to the conclusion that the more an administrator can observer the teacher in a variety of settings, the better the administrator can gauge the quality of the teacher's instruction.
The main artifact that I gathered from the observation is a floor plan of the computer lab and on it, I denoted which students the teacher worked with, when he worked with them and for how long. I discussed this with the teacher during our pre-conference and he was interested to see the results. Working with students in the computer is more demanding that many teachers realize and I know that it is easy to miss a lot of off-task behavior and students requiring assistance, so that is why I chose this particular form of data-gathering tool. During our post-observation, the teacher quickly noted that his approach to assist the students was chaotic and it was evident on the chart that several students were not addressed at all in the 50-minute time period. The teacher said that he was going to use the seating chart in the future and actually assign particular seats for optimal learning. This class had 7 students on IEPs and there were several instances were I noted off-task behavior. The teacher concluded that if he had a seating chart and created a check-list of expected outcomes from the class period, he could walk around the room in a systematic way, checking off completed requirements and address each student in a more orderly manner, ensuring that each student was addressed by the teacher at least once. The form is below:
Computer Lay Out for Rm 230_observation
What strengths and/or improvement areas did you notice in the conference about strategies to improve instruction?
Overall, I feel confident in this teacher's ability. While there were definite areas of concern, the teacher is willing to take suggestions and is self-reflective without being prompted. He offered to me that he already changed up his lesson for the 2nd and 3rd days because of what he experienced on the 1st day, the day I observed. This lesson was unique in that it took place in the computer lab and that setting offered a challenging set of circumstances.
In the conference, which behavior did you seem to predominantly use? Do you think this was an appropriate approach given the developmental level of the teacher? Briefly explain.
I used the approaches of listening and presenting alternatively. I noticed that I did provide a few explicit suggestions pertaining to instruction for the teacher, but I felt that they were appropriate guidance for a first-year teacher in his first semester of teaching. I will admit that a couple of times, the teacher volunteered suggestions on what to do next time before I had an opportunity to broach the particular topic and it was comforting to know that he and I were on the same page. I think it is appropriate to use direct assistance to beginning teachers and it was particulary effective since we had already built up some sort of trust between us previous to this post-observation conference. I also think that since I am technically not this teacher's administrator, he probably looks upon me as a fellow teacher, which also enhanced the reception of my post-conference feedback.
I really enjoyed this assignment. This was the first time I was responsible for a full-clinical observation and it was satisfying to see the complete cycle; pre-observation conference, observation and post-observation conference. The teacher was receptive to my feedback which informs me that my technique was not off-putting. I plan on working with this teacher on another assignment in the Media Center this semester and we will discuss how the modifications that he made impacted the student learning. This particular observation also gives me much to consider as a future administrator because I found myself questioning the rationale that is used so frequently with new teachers in education. This teacher is part-time, only teaching three periods a day. During those three periods, he has 25 students on IEPs and each class has a special education co-teacher; a different co-teacher for each class! I found myself more upset about the situation than the teacher, because as a new teacher, he doesn't know how it could be better! The special education department in my school is frustrated with the lack of planning classroom teachers do with the co-teachers, but if classroom teachers must plan with a different co-teacher for each period and also have a high quantity of IEPs to plan for, then I don't see how there is enough time in the day for a teacher to do it all! I know the situation could be better because there are some teachers who exclusively teach AP courses and Honors courses and then there are other teachers who only have the assisted classes. Why not share the load? So the results of this observation not only had me reflect on the assignment to observe teachers, but the bigger questions of how teachers are assigned classes, and why are new teachers are given the more difficult classes and experienced teachers given the smoother running classes?