On your own in front of a classroom of children, there is no way to truly know how you are coming across to your students. You can know the theory in and out, but it can be easy to let that slip – for instance lose your calm and to raise your voice unnecessarily and in an unconstructive way – like the teacher in the first video we watched for this study task.
This is where observation comes in. Be that via a small, discreet video camera in the corner of the room or a peer or mentor in the class room, observation by a neutral third party is the only way to take an objective look at our teaching practice.
Optimally we will have both. There are things an observer may miss, or the observed party could have had a reason for doing something a certain way which could be a useful point of discussion in a feedback session – for instance in the video of the observed Year 5 teacher he was able to explain that he interacted with an individual a certain way because he is familiar with the student. This opened an important discussion between the teacher and his mentor. In this instance the teacher was an ideal recipient of the feedback because although he did not initially agree with his mentor’s assessment of the situation, they reviewed the video and he took what she said on board. He then went on to implement her suggestion in the classroom. It would have not been possible to have such an effective feedback session if either the mentor or the video camera had not been present in the class.
It is important to give feedback and not judgement. Feedback must include things that the person is doing well in their practice to give them the opportunity to build on these strengths but also to hopefully leave the person more open to receiving criticism on an area they may have work to do – even offering realistic suggestions for their practice (Cottrell, 2013). Judgement, on the other hand, would be an unhelpful condemnation on the observed party. Comments on something that the observed cannot change are not productive feedback.
I found it interesting to see the “palm up” body language that we have seen in previous tasks put into practice when the teacher in the first video was talking to a small group of his Year 5 students. I am looking forward to placement because I am keen to receive feedback on my areas for improvement when communicating.