A new approach to teacher observation takes some of the dread out of the experience for teachers who are on edge at the thought of a principal or superintendent observing their class.
Teachers at Sherwood Oregon’s two middle schools found a way to take the pressure off of themselves during observations and use them to improve lessons in new ways: they observed each other.
At Sherwood and Laurel Ridge middle schools, teachers have been piloting the Lesson Study method, a professional development tactic that originated in Japanese schools, and they told the Sherwood School Board on Wednesday night that it’s working wonderfully.
Lesson Study requires teachers to meet, collaborate to plan a lesson, observe each other teach the lesson and meet again afterward to discuss how it went and make alterations. The Sherwood teachers stressed that the observations were not evaluative and were focused more on students’ engagement, as teachers each had a group of about five students to monitor throughout the lessons.
The program was piloted by Eric Bowman, Sally Collins and Megan Wilson of Sherwood Middle School, and Brady Strutz and Katie Sullivan of Laurel Ridge Middle School. The five instructors worked together to plan a literature lesson that they tweaked over two days – switching schools after the first day.
Bowman said the benefits of collaboration and observation became apparent as soon as the end of the first day, and Collins agreed. A small tweak in the lesson would have clear benefits.
“What parts of that lesson really hit home?” Collins said, referring to the teachers’ observation of the students. “Because when you’re doing the teaching, it’s a lot harder to see that happen.”
Collins added that the opportunity to watch their colleagues exposed the educators to new methods and strategies they might use in their own lessons.
“I was surprised at how much difference a tiny change in a lesson can do,” Collins said.
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