Observation: criteria for effective teaching

As part of my own professional development, I have recently invested time into understanding teacher observation and giving feedback. Research and associated reading has made me re-examine my own practice when it comes to observing teachers in a summer school context.

Yesterday, after telling teachers that I would be observing them, I decided to draw up a list of criteria for effective teaching that is specific to our context. I believe that before an observation takes place, we all need to know what the observer is looking for. Interestingly enough, this is something that in my experience is rarely done, which is a shame as it makes sense to tell teachers what it is you, as an observer, want to see.

In drawing up some criteria for effective teaching, I created a bullet point list which I then presented to teachers during a meeting and asked for their contribution. After all, they are the ones who do the actual teaching and have opinions which are as equally valid as mine. In making a negotiated list, we are involving everyone in the process and moving observation more towards an objective standpoint as opposed to equating effective teaching with what we do ourselves.

Here is the list of criteria:

  • Learners should stand up and mingle at different points in the lesson.
  • The teacher should help build rapport with learners and encourage them to do so with each other.
  • The teacher should use the student’s names.
  • Learners should work with a variety of partners.
  • The teacher should provide task language to help scaffold interaction between learners. This could be provided by the teacher and/or the learners themselves with appropriate reformulation.
  • The teacher should provide feedback after a stage.
  • The teacher provides hot and cold correction when appropriate.
  • The teacher should regularly give praise and encouragement.
  • The teacher should grade their language, appropriate to the class group.
  • The teacher should demonstrate rather than explain.
  • The teacher should outline success criteria for each task. In some instances, this could be negotiated with the class group.
  • The teacher should concept check.
  • The teacher should help learners recycle language through task repetition.
  • The teacher should maintain energy levels by dictating the pace of the lesson.
  • The teacher should facilitate learning.
  • The teacher should encourage independent learning.
  • Learners should provide constructive peer feedback.
  • Learners should self-evaluate.
  • The teacher should be mindful of how they can use the whiteboard effectively.
  • The teacher should focus on pronunciation if and when appropriate rather than as part of a planned stage.
  • At the end of the lesson, students should complete their learner diary (notebook) to review work done and aid self-reflection. Review should be facilitated by the teacher.
  • The teacher should finish the lesson a few minutes early to ask the learners to tidy up.

Of course, teachers wouldn’t need to display all of these points, nor should they be penalised for not doing all of them. Instead, we should go with the mind-set that these behaviours lend themselves to our context and this is what I, as an observer, am looking for. This should hopefully give teachers some clarity pre-observation, leads into a meaningful conversation during post-observation feedback and allows teachers an opportunity to contribute more to the process and reflect better on their own teaching.


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