Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Let's See": Contrasting Talks about Teaching

In the article '"Let's See": Contrasting Conversations about Teaching' by John F. Fanselow from the Teachers College at Columbia University, the author talks about a different approach to observing teachers.
Instead of a supervisor with "super vision" telling the teacher what to change, the author suggests that the 'visiting teacher' should look at the other teacher and see themselves. In this way, a healthy dialogue can be fostered to help teachers exchange ideas about teaching.
Traditionally when someone observed another teacher they offered a helpful prescription for improvement or a rating of the observed performance. A lot of time that help was met with hostility or resentment. Too much instruction can teach "learned helplessness" where the recipient feels unable to act without some sort of instructions. The author offers that the observation can be directive, alternative, collaborative, non-directive, or creative.
The best way to help someone become a better teacher is to encourage self-exploration. Through self-exploration an instructor can see their own teaching differently.
The classroom teacher needs to be responsible for the decision-making that occurs that effects the students. It is perhaps time to train the teacher to analyze their situation and make their own decision for their situation.
Many of our communications are unconscious. The author says feedback should be given for 5 minutes after the observed class or else it will never happen.
The article says that observing is selecting. What we see is not what takes place but what we value as important to see.
The author looked at how observations are interpreted. "Why did you smile?" is an observation. The observed teacher would probably respond, "At that moment I thought that the class needed reassurance.
In the article, the author wants to encourage teachers to explore. Therefore they have to be very careful when they critique others. Words can have certain meaning and they can limit the scope of the exploration. If something is deemed good or bad then the decision has already been made about what value it has. We should look beyond our ego at what is really happening and not limit communication. If we are open to it, then we can explore and grow.
So the author wants teachers and visiting teachers to be open to new ideas and to rethink old ideas. There might be something hidden that will come to light by reinventing the wheel. More reflection and less judgement is needed to be open to all possibilities.

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