Part of the routine of teaching practice, at some point, will include being observed during teaching. Whether it be from teaching colleagues, school leaders, or inspection regimes, it is part of the job which fills some with terror whilst others pull their magic teaching tricks out of the bag to impress the observer, receiving constant positive results. However, research analysis explored by Durham University’s Professor Robert Coe points to the complete unreliability of the judgements made by observers on teacher performance. In the article, Professor Coe points to two key issues concerning judegements made:
The first concerns the extent to which the judgements made independently by two observers who see the same lesson would agree: in other words, reliability.The second key issue is validity: if you get a high rating, does it really mean you are an effective teacher? Unfortunately, the evidence here is even more worrying.
The research evidence highlights how intuitions can be so slanted, but there are five reasons why judgements can be so out of touch with reality:
- Observation produces an emotional response;
- Learning is invisible;
- Certain pedagogical styles being in fashion;
- Own belief of effective practices;
- Observation actually misses so much.
Professor Coe answers his responses to the above challenges in the blog:
Stop assuming that untrained observers can either make valid judgements or provide feedback that improves anything
Apply a critical research standard and the best existing knowledge to the process of developing, implementing and validating observation protocols
Ensure that good evidence supports any uses or interpretations we make for observations. It follows that appropriate caveats around the limits of such uses should be clearly stated and the use should not go beyond what is justified
Undertake robustly evaluated research to investigate how feedback from lesson observation might be used to improve teaching quality.
The blog article has major implications for those who observe and those being observed in recognising the weaknesses in judgements, ensuring a fair and robust system is put in place, especially with the threat that teachers are likely to face MOT (competence) tests in the future (see BBC Article here).