“Observer and teacher should have pre-agreed on which components of the lesson that they felt were priority.”

I call this the blunderbuss versus the BB gun syndrome. In other words if I blast a shotgun at my target some of its pellets might hit the target but most will cause what is sometimes called collateral and more often than not, needless damage. If I aim and shoot my BB gun precisely I will be able to hit what I needed to hit in the first place.

Remember the old Tom and Jerry cartoons? That’s what I am talking about.

Leveraging from the previous post where I identified several guidelines for meaningful and effective supervisory practices in order to optimize meaningful and sustainable learning, I am strongly arguing that a teacher benefits most from an observation when the supervisor / coach and the teacher have agreed on what the supervisor should prioritize in the actual observation.

A dialogue in a pre-observation might go like this:

SUPERVISOR: So your lesson plan appears to be about the causes of the civil war. What do you want the students to be able to do as a result of this lesson?

TEACHER: I want them to be able to prioritize the causes of the civil war and be able to offer evidence for their conclusions.

SUPERVISOR: Great, and you’re going to do this by having them read a variety of prime sources.

TEACHER: This approach is new to me you know. I am a little uncomfortable in my questioning. I’m not sure if my questioning is high level enough to draw out this kind of thinking.

SUPERVISOR: Ok, why don’t I pay most of my attention to scripting your questioning?

TEACHER: Sounds good.

Now, this is in contrast to supervisor reviewing the lesson plan, nailing down the teacher’s objectives and then on the observation, writing everything-everything that the teacher does from scratching her nose, to sneezing.

Clearly, the focused precise targeted approach over time will help coach a teacher to acquire the spectrum of skills and practices to optimize students’ learning.

How does this and the next several entries relate to systems thinking and systemic reform of education? In this case we’re talking mostly about Team Learning and also about Personal Mastery and Shared Vision. (We’re always talking about Shared Vision!)

Having an inquiry-based dialogue and exchange about the qualities and elements of a good lesson and / or unit design is clearly about Team Learning for you see, the assumption in this Discipline is that the organization has striven, through a variety of means to acculturate its citizens / stakeholders to have co-mastered the principles of great lesson design and implementation. The mindset (as in Mental Models?) that the supervisor has a monopoly on all things instructional and the teacher is merely the serf-implementor of a given lesson is just pretty silly if not absurd. Better it would be, no, that both observOR and observEE can both talk the same talk and exchange a meaningful analysis between them rather than one where the observOR talks / coaches “down” to the observEE? That’s called dialogue.

Personal Mastery is all about the organization’s obligation to make meaningful and effective attempts to “grow” their citizen / stakeholders by providing opportunities for or supporting the stakeholder’s own attempts to learn their craft and to excel in it. In this case, we’re talking about the teacher’s diagnosis, whether generated by the supervisor’s coaching or through their own self-analysis, that there are holes in the (w)hole of their teaching skills.

A good observation, undergirded by all participants’ recognition in and commitment to sound teaching principles, will provide the opportunities for the system of exemplary teaching to improve on itself when it needs to improve on itself.