Objectivity and/or Observation?

by Zhenya

As a teacher trainer, I sometimes think if what I pay attention to while observing a lesson is what I need to be paying attention to, or is this really what I want to be making a note about at this very moment. In my self-talk, I wonder if an observer can be totally objective at all times? Even trying to be very descriptive in the notes I am making about one moment, I may lose something else happening at the very same time. A simple example: a teacher is writing a class topic on the board, then turns that record into a center for a mind map and asks students to add their associations. We see that in response to ‘Fitness’ students add ‘football’, ‘gym’, ‘lazy’, ‘record’, etc. If the observer is focusing on the board (clarity, spelling, colors, who is writing, etc.) then the students are out of sight (who is actively contributing? who is paying attention? who is texting, or day dreaming, or reading, etc.) And… what is the teacher doing or saying?

It is a little easier decision to make on an intensive training course, when there are specific standards to be met by each participant in order to receive a course certificate (even though there are still questions about teaching style, personality, the specific group of students on the course, and many more factors) It gets trickier if it is a regular observation at a school (Do I as an observer know the teacher/the group of students/the context/the course book, etc. well enough to make my observation notes helpful for the teacher? Did the teacher I observe have a say in what s/he would like me to be looking at?)

Finally, for our post-lesson meeting with this teacher, how will I choose what to focus on in our conversation, and what will be just left in the written notes? Who will be choosing what to talk about – the teacher or the observer? And what will we call that meeting: a feedback session, or reflection?

P.S. I was searching for one quote to illustrate what I was trying to say, but came across this post (featuring a different quote in the title!): It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. Not an ELT blog post, but a good reminder to me about the skill or habit of paying attention and noticing what is around me. In class and outside, of course.

Thank you for reading!