Peer Observation

As I noted earlier, I’m going to be writing a report on using self/peer assessment with S5/6.  The same day as I agreed to do this I had a conversation with a colleague about the usefulness of peer observation in the teaching profession.  My school are rigourously pushing observations at the moment and I understand why.  My colleague does not.  He, and many other teachers in the school, view peer observation as a “piece of nonsense”;  an exercise of no practical use to teachers.  I, personally, have always got a lot out of being observed.  It not only enables me to become aware of areas in my teaching that I need to work on, it also helps me see what I am doing right.  The latter is a confidence boost that I need sometimes.  The former essential to improving my teaching.  It’s a win, win situation in my eyes. 

Of course that doesn’t mean that I actually enjoy being observed.  I certainly don’t.  The feeling of self conciousness is very unpleasant.  Recently senior management have been observing our classes.  I’m not sure I fully understand the thinking behind this.  Is it a method of checking up on the teaching staff?  Surely that is not in the spirit of AifL.  I don’t have a problem with management ensuring the staff are doing their jobs correctly but I would like a spade to be called a spade.  Not an AifL shovel. 

The reason I wanted to write about this in the first place is that it made me think of my pupils’ opinion of peer assessment.  If many teachers resent their work being assessed by their peers what makes me think my pupils find it useful?  Realise the link between these two issues is tenuous but I often have a hard time selling peer assessment to my pupils and I wonder whether it is for similar reasons.  The benefits should be apparent to all.  But they are not.  Why is this?

3 thoughts on “Peer Observation

  1. The fact is, we all need a critical friend if we are to do the best we can. I’ve just been at an entrepreneurship club lecture where the speaker started off by telling us about his numerous failures before hitting on a product that has netted big bucks – those iPod holders for when you go jogging.

    The average entrepreneur makes seven mistakes, most of these not making it into the realm of big business because a small group of users – or critical friends – stop the creator investing any more money or effort in something which has no distinctive value.

    Teachers need the same. They may not like it, but one has to find the strength from somewhere to get this helpful, effort-reducing, success-expanding advantage.

  2. Couldn’t agree more. The problem is that if a person is closed to the idea of a critical friend they are unlikely to benefit to any great degree from the experience of working with one.
    Perhaps the more standard peer observations become in schools the less alienated the cynics will become.

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