Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Power of Peer Observation

Peer observation is a powerful and helpful learning tool that provides learners with a clear visual.  Personally, I am a visual learner so it always helps me to "see" it instead of solely listening or reading about what I am trying to learn or strengthen/improve.  Since I am a visual learner myself, I tend to naturally include interactive modeling, visuals, charts, and peer observation within my teaching in our classroom.  I always notice that when students see what it is supposed to look like and sound like, they usually rise up to the expectations and lift the level of their work.

Just like it is powerful for classmates to observe and learn from one another, it is equally as powerful for teachers to observe their colleagues and learn from and with one another.    In our school, it is the norm for teachers to visit one another's classrooms to observe a mini-lesson, read aloud, or small group instruction.  This year, there is a new teacher on our grade level team so we have opened our classroom to her anytime she finds it helpful to come in and observe.  One day, instead of only the teacher coming in to observe read aloud, she brought her whole class with her.  As the teacher observed me and noticed my modeling, questioning, and charting, her students observed my students.  It was one of the most powerful learning experiences!  When they came in, I spoke to her class for a couple minutes and set up the purpose for their visit by asking them to pay close attention to my students' actions and interactions during our read aloud.  I invited them to walk around and see how students were using their reader's notebook and listen in to the students' conversations when they turned and talked during read aloud.  At the end of read aloud, I paused and asked her students to share some of their noticings.  They shared how they noticed students using colored pencils to color code their thinking in their reader's notebooks, how they were using thinking stems when they turned and talked, how they were using different strategies to write and talk about the read aloud, and more.

I highly encourage and recommend teachers to try this out with a colleague because it is so powerful to have students observe one another across classrooms.  I will definitely work with this teacher to set up more times for this kind of peer observation with one another as well as with our students.  I would love to hear how you use peer observation in your classroom and school so please share!

2 comments:

  1. Another in-class peer observation activity is the "fishbowl".

    To help demonstrate effective literature circles, I had a few students sit together in a circle to model. The rest of the class sat around them and studied them like sociologists (they even put on their pretend sociologist hats and sat like scientists :)

    Those in the fishbowl do the activity and those on the edge observe. At the end, those on the edge reflect on what they've seen and make personal goals for themselves.

    Good luck!
    Janet | expateducator.com

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