01 SES 01 C, Researching Approaches to Professional Development
This presentation reports on a piece of research into professional development in a large primary school in an area of socio-economic deprivation located at some distance from possible Higher Education Institution or training centre. As part of involvement with a University Researcher-in-Residence programme, staff took on the role of co-researchers to find out more about a peer observation process that they had developed in the school. This process involves a cycle of observation, reflection and lesson planning, aimed at improving pupils’ learning (Bennett & Barp, 2008, p. 559). There is a growing interest in Peer Observation (Teachers Observing Teachers), although most studies appearing in peer reviewed journals are concerned with university staff observing each other, observing students on placements, or encouraging student to observe each other (e.g . Hammersley-Fletcher & Orsmond, 2004; Kohut et al. (2007).
Peer Observation Cycles share many features of lesson study (Fernández et al., 2003; Lee, 2008; Puchner and Taylor, 2006) as well as the early development of a learning community (Clausen et al., 2009). The way in which it was realised in the case under study had strong elements of peer coaching - individuals working together, observing each other's classrooms, discussing wat they had seen practices to provide mutual support.
The three teachers involved with the research reported here, however, were using peer observation because they wanted to. They had been motivated to develop their version of the POC process in response to their own professional development needs in their early years of teaching. They found the process mutually beneficial and not too time consuming, having refined the process to fit in efficiently with their work schedules. The benefits which they believe they had gained made them want to share the process with others. This motivated them to try it out with student teachers on placement in the school, and to seek colleagues . They wanted find out whether other people find it as useful as they have done,
The research questions were developed through discussion; practitioner co-researchers wanted to find out what is helpful, what doesn’t work so well, and whether people ‘get used to it’ or find Peer Observation supportive from the beginning. University researchers-in-residence were interested in particular to find out how inhibitions about being observed were overcome. the school context in which this was taking place was one with a strong ethos of professional development for all staff, openness to taking on trainee teachers and provision of opportunities locally for professional development. University researchers therefore were interested in finding out whether the process was effective because it fitted with the school ethos. This would suggest that newer members of staff might not be as comfortable with joining a peer observation group. Both staff and university researchers therefore had particular interest in the response of trainee teachers on placements in the school
The study adopted Appreciative Enquiry approach to capture what was good about the present version of peer observations, and to imagine what it might be (Cooperrider and Srivastva,1987). The study employed mixed methods: an anonymous online questionnaire, an interview and observation of the feedback reflection / lesson planning session. All staff including student teachers were be invited to take part in parts 1 and 2, but only teachers currently employed at the school were observed during the reflection sessions. Interviews were carried out by University researchers to make it easier for participants to speak openly and honestly, and student teachers did not feel that their assessment procedures are being compromised. Interviews with key informants included the three teachers who had initiated the approach. In addition minutes were taken of post observation discussions, which were also video-recorded. Particular care was needs in including trainee teachers in the research, so that they did not feel under pressure to join in the research because the individuals managing the research were in some cases also involved in mentoring and assessing their practice. To overcome these issues, interviews were carried out by university staff with no role in teaching or assessing them, and staff modelled how to comment on each other’s practice in a supportive manner during feedback session, but these were not observed.
Emerging findings suggest that the school ethos of ongoing professional development is indeed contributing to the success of Peer Observation Cycle. The school leadership team prioritises and protects time for Peer Observation. However, there are also indications that feeling at ease with being observed and taking part in ensuing discussions are also supported by the personal relationships developed during training and probationary teaching periods. This has implications for teachers being able to continue to work with colleagues who are genuine ‘peers’ – with the same experience and the same level of confidence.
Bennett, S. & Barp, D. (2008). Peer observation – a case for doing it online. Teaching in Higher Education, 13(5), 559-570. Clausen, K.W., Aquino, A.M. and Wideman, R. (2009) Bridging the real and the ideal: a comparison between learning community characteristics and a school-based case study Teaching and Teacher Education, 25 (3) (2009), pp. 444–452 Cooperrider, D.L. and Srivastva, S. (1987) Appreciative Inquiry in organizational life . Research in Organizational Change and Development, Vol.1, pages 129-169. Fernández, C Cannon, J. and Choksi S (2003) A US–Japan lesson study collaboration reveals critical lenses for examining practice Teaching and Teacher Education, 19 (2) (2003), pp. 171–185 Hammersley-Fletcher, L. & Orsmond, P (2004) Evaluating our peers: is peer observation a meaningful process? Studies in Higher Education Vol. 29, Iss. 4, Pages 489-503 Kohut , G. F., Burnap, C. & Yon, M. G. (2007) Peer Observation of Teaching: Perceptions of the Observer and the Observed, College Teaching, 55:1, 19-25, DOI: 10.3200/CTCH.55.1.19-25 Lee, J.F.K. (2008) A Hong Kong case of lesson study – benefits and concerns Teaching and Teacher Education, 24 (5) (2008), pp. 1115–1124 Puchner, L. D., and Taylor, A.R. (2006) Lesson study, collaboration and teacher efficacy: stories from two school-based math lesson study groups Teaching and Teacher Education, 22 (7) (2006), pp. 922–934 Shortland, S. (2010). Feedback within peer observation: Continuing professional development and unexpected consequences. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47(3), 295-304.
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