MAT Blog

Preparing for Your First Classroom Observation

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 25, 2014 9:36:41 AM


Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a first-year teacher, classroom observations can be anxiety-inducing. But they don’t have to be! By taking the following advice from veteran teacher and author Julia Thompson, you can feel more confident, relaxed, and open-minded both before and during your classroom observation:

  • Be proactive: If you don’t have a copy of the observation criteria, make sure that you get one. Usually these can be found in the faculty manual, but if not, your administrator should be more than happy to provide you a copy.
  • Keep your lesson simple: This should go without saying, but observation day is not the time to play a video, issue a test, or begin with a long writing prompt. Just keep it simple. Elaborate activities like skits or student debates may backfire—plus, they do little to highlight your instructional skills.
  • Give your students a heads-up: You should inform your students that there will be a visitor and that you would appreciate their cooperation. At the same time, tell them to be natural and act like they normally would.
  • Accommodate the observer: Select an unobtrusive place for your visitor before s/he arrives. And don’t forget an extra copy of your lesson plan and any additional worksheets, too. The observer will want to follow along with the lesson.

You’re probably wondering about the criteria the observer will use to evaluate you. Although it may vary, chances are that your observer will look to see if you have:

  • Followed the district’s curriculum
  • Prepared and fulfilled objectives for the lesson
  • Presented/facilitated accurate and appropriate information
  • Demonstrated an understanding of the material
  • Made use of available class time
  • Kept students on task
  • Allowed time for transitions between activities
  • Employed a variety of teaching strategies
  • Demonstrated effective questioning skills
  • Used an assessment instrument for the lesson
  • Motivated your students to succeed
  • Established the relevance of the lesson
  • Provided timely feedback
  • Monitored and assisted students
  • Interacted in a positive way with students
  • Maintained an orderly classroom
  • Minimized disruptions
  • Incorporated critical thinking into the assignment
  • Enforced classroom rules
  • Delivered clear instructions
  • Projected a professional image

Despite the fact that constructive criticism is helpful, even necessary, it is still one of the most difficult aspects of being observed and evaluated. You may find it challenging, but do your best to come to your post-observation with a professional, open-minded attitude. Here are some of Thompson’s suggestions to help you make this conference a positive and productive experience:

  • Go into your evaluation conference with paper, a pen and an open mind. Be prepared to hear criticism, but resist the temptation to internalize it or take it personally
  • Listen objectively. Most of the criticism will probably start to cover issues you have started to address yourself. If you find yourself becoming defensive, stop and make an effort to remain open-minded
  • Listen more than you speak. Ask for advice and suggestions for improvement, then listen carefully, write them down, and follow them
  • After the conference, when you have had an opportunity to correct some of your weaknesses, keep the administrator update on your progress. S/he may schedule a follow-up meeting or observation, but if not, we suggest that you invite your administrator to stop by your class and see the progress you’ve made.

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Tags: Classroom Observation

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