Observation- going from good to great!
Cycle One inspired, developed and facilitated my growth as a teacher. This learning did not only extend to us as participants but to the process itself. Changes we incorporated in cycle two as a result of cycle one included:
- A clear time line. We ensured that our pre-observation meeting, observations and post-observation meetings all happened within a weeks’ time. The reflections were then due within a week from our final reflective meeting.
- A clear focus on students learning.
In contrast to Cycle One and I guess as a result of Cycle One I had no anxieties or feelings of apprehension when I commenced this cycle. The difference in my emotional response between the two cycles were very significant to me. Just muttering the words observation used to make my heart race, fill me with anxiety and unable to breathe. I was unable to disassociate observation and assessment. Now that I have experienced and seen what a powerful tool observation can truly be I could not help but feel excited and curious about the new discoveries to be made during Cycle Two.
Being the Observer:
I was only supposed to observe Nathalie for the first half of her session. I found the topic thought provoking and very interesting so I ended up staying for the whole session. I felt comfortable and confident in my ability to be an observer. I always like sitting amongst the students, having the space and time to view learning through a different lens. I absorb the environment, the physical space around me and the people around me. Then I analyse how all these factors influence and impacts learning.
My development and growth as a teacher was heavily influence by being the observer during cycle one and once again during cycle two. In part I think this could be due to the fact that Nathalie is a very experienced lecturer. I feel like a sponge absorbing teaching techniques she uses whilst gently being reminded of small changes to my practice that I should make in order to continue to strives for excellence in my teaching. During her session I was reminded of the importance to speak clearly so that your voice projects over the background hissing and whirring of the air-conditioner. Repeating answers that students give when asked a question, this is because students speak quietly and cannot be heard in all four corners of the room but also it demonstrates good communication techniques to the students. Keeping the students engaged by walking around the classroom, keeping the students’ attention, telling a story instead of reading from the PowerPoint, these are small techniques used and when combined makes a big difference to the learning experience of the students. Using a varied delivery method by incorporating a few slides, followed by a video that brings the theory to life, and then having a classroom discussion about the topic also made the topic easier to relate to thus created an environment whereby students wanted to find out more about the topic.
I did not anticipate when I commenced this study the positively powerful impact being an observer would have on my development and understanding of teaching.
I think having someone observe you teaching will always provoke some level of uncomfortable self-awareness. However, due to the nature of this observational cycle I was more relaxed and able teach the way I would normally, without Nathalie’s presence effecting how I deliver my session.
For my session I continued my exploration about gamification and incorporated feedback and learning points from cycle one. I facilitated a board game, whereby students had to answer questions in relation to the subject topic. We had mini discussions throughout the game about the questions being asked. After the game I presented a very short PowerPoint with only three slides and a video. The students were finally presented with a scenario and based on their pre-existing knowledge and knowledge gained from the session they had to answer the questions and present the answers to each other. Nathalie observed the latter halve of the session involving the scenario.
Apart from the knowledge I gained from observing Nathalie I gained confidence in my ability to have a reflective coaching session with a colleague. Discussing teaching and learning with a colleague, having the space and time to stop, think and explore element of our teaching is valuable but also a necessity for further development and growth. It requires an honest, open and non-judgemental approach in order to be constructive. The peer meeting provided a platform to explore our teaching and overcome barriers we face such as increasing student numbers and environmental factors. For me it definitely increased my self-awareness around teaching and gave me the space to explore ways my session could be utilised for larger cohort students. It also made me feel valued having my opinions and suggestions heard and appreciated. For these reasons alone, this collaborative observation cycle is already uniquely positive and innovative.
We had a thought provoking collaborative meeting. Students had a clear focus for each of our sessions with an underpinning focus on their own learning. Clear themes emerged from our discussions with similarities and differences apparent for both students. Discussions with students about their learning gave us as lecturers a greater insight into students learning and how our teaching practices and environmental factors influence learning. For me personally the meeting left me feeling intrigued and fascinated by the students’ change in their perceptions of their own learning and their increased self-awareness of their learning process.
The students were able to identify which activities were optimum for their learning, when they had ‘light bulb’ moments and how these moments will impact on their practice as student nurses. The ‘light bulb’ moments made it abundantly clear that learning occurs not only when students are being taught but also whilst having peer discussions and listening to classroom feedback from other students. This seemed to be a real moment of self-actualisation for students, whereby the key to learning gets unlocked and they realised that learning occurs in many different ways and is a constant conscious and subconscious process. The students also successfully managed to learn from this experience and were able to identify when teaching styles, room environments and even peers were disadvantageous to their learning. This is where it becomes interesting, as a result of becoming more self-aware about their own learning they then changed their behaviour as students, repositioned themselves in the classroom in order to be closer to the front, in the middle and away from distracting peers enabling them to learn despite other perceived obstacles such as learning environment and teaching styles used.
Discussing students learning increased my knowledge about different approached to learning and teaching but also what teaching activities enable and promote learning. From having these conversations combined with knowledge from cycle one I have come to the realisation that groups discussions are essential to learning. Building of pre-existing knowledge will be aided if we can enable students by recognising their knowledge. Most importantlyit verified to me that improving student learning requires teachers and learners to co-construct a shared awareness and understanding about learning collaboratively.
It is evident from my experience and our discussions with students that this observational cycle is beneficial to all involved in the process. Participating in the process has impacted my teaching on a practical level as I will make changes to what I do in the classroom and how I do it. More importantly I’ve gained a deeper shared understanding about learning and teaching as a result of the collaborative meetings with the students. This observation unlocked the potential for us to understand our students and thereby allowing us to meet their learning needs on a deeper level. However, learning still does depend on the students’ willingness to participate in the process. By allowing students to become more aware of their own learning as a result of their participation in observation, consequently led to them being empowering to overcome self-identified barriers and leading to a better and more satisfactory teaching and learning experience for all.