Monthly Archives: January 2013

Self-observation, oxymoron or innovation?

A very big welcome to the very first post of the Peartree Languages Teaching and Learning blog! I sincerely hope that the topics presented in these monthly posts will find an interested audience among EFL academic managers, teachers and students and generate the sort of discussions which lead to innovation in the classroom. And the topic for this post… SELF-OBSERVATION! No, not some esoteric religious practice, but using equipment for teachers to record lesson segments to look back over and evaluate.

It’s funny how the very suggestion of listening, or heaven forbid, watching oneself deliver part or all of a lesson is sometimes enough to bring even the most hardy and seasoned teacher out in cold sweats of anxiety. Jeremy Harmer swears by it though, and it was for this reason, coupled with a long-standing belief in the benefits of teacher self-reflection, that I decided to give it a go at our school just before Christmas.

We’re still in the early stages of ‘experimentation’, but thus –far the following presumed advantages over the traditional third-party observation have rung true in my feedback sessions with teachers. Firstly, the more overt good or bad points of a lesson have a greater impact. It can sometimes be a little difficult to properly reconcile with information about yourself from a third-party, including that which is positive, whereas seeing it before your own eyes tends to make whatever aspect of your teaching you’re focussing upon immediately obvious and relevant.

Of course, the academic manager can choose whether to watch the footage too and give their own feedback, but the idea is that by giving the teacher complete control over the operation of the recording and the subsequent analysis an approach to professional development can be engendered in which the teacher is encouraged to take an active rather than a passive role.

So who else has experience of recording their lessons for self-observation, or even does it regularly as part of their school’s teaching observation practices? I’d love your ideas and opinions on the matter!

Next time (February), I will be posing questions about that old bug-bear correction- questions that have arisen from hours of self-imposed self-observation!

Tristan Francis
Director of Studies