Be positive and consider yourself fortunate. You are lucky enough to be in the privileged position of not only knowing when the observation will take place, but have advance warning of the timing and can PREPARE beforehand.
How To Proceed
Treat it as part of your CPD.
The observer will assess whether you follow certain criteria to a satisfactory standard and comment upon, giving advice and recommendations accordingly. This will give you an independent appraisal of your teaching methodology and provide you with positive/negative feedback on your role as a teacher. But remember this exercise is to benefit all concerned – you, your students and the educational system of which you are an integral part.
Take a moment to appraise yourself.
If you were ineffective or doing a bad job this would have already come to light and remedial or disciplinary action been taken. So this is all about your future in teaching, rather than the past. So ask yourself the question ‘where are you in teaching THIS class?’ Focus on this particular class only for the time allotted for your observation, prioritizing your planning/teaching appropriately. Some schools/institutions may ask you to complete a pre-observation form, which gives you a further insight to what particular format the observation is going to follow, so you can react in a suitable manner.
So let’s think what will the observer generally be looking for? It’s usually 3 criteria, which makes things pretty simple:
- Planning – are you as a teacher aware of your student’s knowledge and development and do you plan your lessons with this in mind, taking into account the diversity of learners and the suitability of resources, so that outcomes can be identified in your class?
- Instruction – do you provide engaging, challenging and relevant classes?
- Classroom Environment – is it conducive to learning? Are you supportive? Do you manage the classroom well and maintain high expectations from your students?
Of course you answered a resounding YES to all the above, but let’s check if you really are ready for the BIG DAY. These are suggestions in addition to the desirable qualities outlined in the article ‘How to be a better teacher’ at busyteacher.org. You may have to produce a specific lesson plan in advance for your observer, but you must have this ready as a matter of course in many teaching situations, so there is no real excuse for being ill-prepared.
You should have an appropriate use of target language, linking with the previous lesson. Explain your tasks clearly and effectively and check for understanding. Ensure you close the session positively and clearly having achieved your aims.
Make sure you know all the students’ names. Maybe you don’t always call upon them in such a fashion, but this creates a good impression during the observation. Use the room effectively to compliment your lesson and the envisaged activities. Encourage and handle questions effectively and be appreciative of your student contributions.
Lesson relevance/ Materials management
Modify your text/lesson to improve communication by making it relevant to students’ lives and culture.
Clarify understanding and ask concept questions.
If there is a break during your observation, keep students continually involved in English speaking activities e.g. Find someone who …
It is important to be very clear and concise, pitching at an appropriate level. Emphasize key points and structures. Manipulate your articulation speed.
Be enthusiastic, professional, responsive and flexible. Establish your presence.
Show your skills in eliciting vocabulary. This is an area where you must be thoroughly prepared.
This is your chance to soar during the assessment. Use numerous activities that are appropriate to the length of your lesson time e.g. dialogues, cloze questions, matching, roleplays and skits, accuracy work. Don’t overdo it. A balance and variety of activities is sufficient. Don’t overwhelm your students and pressurize them to perform too much without pre-practice in prior classes, as otherwise it will be very apparent that this is a break from the norm.
Correct generally and exploit for accuracy opportunities, while giving particular focus to pronunciation.
Eye contact and clarity of body language is essential, as you are being observed and possibly videoed for the post-evaluation. Be aware of negative gestures. If using OHP etc, ensure it is set up properly. Don’t let your equipment fail you or be over ambitious in your presentation.
Make sure you restrain the dominant students. Give direct feedback and compliment desirable behavior. Encourage rapport amongst students and ensure you are creating and maintaining a conducive class atmosphere at all times.
Maybe you usually allow dictionaries, but it should be discouraged on observation day, as your teaching skills are primarily in focus. Let your students become involved in other ways e.g. you might ask them to write some sentences on the whiteboard during the various class exercises.
Student/Teacher speaking time
This is a crucial area. The TT should have these features – quality, quantity, appropriacy and competency in English.
The observation day should be a showcase for your teaching. So make sure you use your strongest artillery. A good relevant warmer or ice-breaker at the start of class will set the scene nicely, or show continuity from the last class by checking homework etc. Work with your most active learners on more difficult tasks and don’t ask hesitant or reluctant speakers to initiate. Make sure you achieve high levels of interaction in whole class, pair work, group work and individual situations. Show your manipulative skills in controlling the direction of the lesson, the time proportioned to task work and the balance between TTT/STT.
Finally don’t let sloppy writing or work on the board undo all your other good work. Plan your grammar timelines, substitution tables, vocabulary lists etc methodically. You can’t anticipate everything and your plans may go adrift for numerous reasons e.g. change in number of students anticipated, tasks over-running, etc. But the observer is not looking for perfection and criticism will be constructive.
Be proud of your accomplishments and take the post-lesson feedback as a mandate for your continuing career in your chosen profession.