The classroom observer: unwanted interruption or welcome witness?

Campbell, Lee (2016) The classroom observer: unwanted interruption or welcome witness? Exploration Through Education . ISSN .

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For many teachers, classroom observation can be a painful interruption/intrusion (Wragg, 1994:15) in the flow of a lesson’s delivery in terms of facilitating a meaningful, creative and enjoyable learning environment that is supportive to both learner and teacher. Whilst I acknowledge that observation can be a daunting experience, eliciting fear and dread at having someone, an ‘intruder’ (Minton, 2005:18) who is not normally part of the audience, watch and scrutinise an individual’s teaching style (O’Leary, 2014:62), I argue for the positive promotion of classroom observation (Double and Martin, 1998) and stress the benefits of ‘develop[ing] personal skills of evaluation and self-appraisal’ (1998:162). The discussion of an observed teaching session that I gave to a group of first year Fine Art undergraduates at Loughborough University in 2015 whose overall purpose/aim of the session was to familiarise students with core issues relating to the usage of sketchbooks as a common staple within contemporary art practice, helps to support my argument that the positive aspects of classroom peer observation (as a live process) outweigh the negatives and can in fact be supportive in providing an opportunity for teachers to realise or reinforce (O’Leary, 2014:62) the strengths in what they are doing. This is in addition to providing a window for the teacher to gain critical constructive feedback from often a more experienced colleague, who has probably at many points during their own teaching career, experienced similar moments of anxiety, positivity and reflection. The danger and the unanticipated events that ‘liveness’ can throw up is half the excitement of teaching. Indeed, ‘coping with the unexpected is an important part of successful teaching’ (Race, 2009:20).

The write-up style that I adopt relates to a three-stage teaching process that I designed in my doctoral thesis (Campbell, 2016b) – Anticipation, Action, and Analysis. This extends to an existing model of reflective practice (Rolfe, 2001) and has been described as an ‘original, practical and imaginative way of demonstrating reflective practice’ (Newbold, pers. comm. 2015).

Keywords:Pedagogy, Peer observation, Performance art, Teaching and Learning, Educational technology, JCOpen
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
X Education > X142 Training Teachers - Higher Education
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
ID Code:24981
Deposited On:16 Nov 2016 16:17

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