Developing classroom practice through self observation

Last term staff filmed themselves teaching, noting the key areas they were happy with and those they wanted to further develop next year.  This approach to observation filled some with dread however discussions with everyone suggest that most teachers got something out of the experience and found it a powerful tool for reflection.

All staff set up cameras in their classrooms and filmed a lesson of their choosing.   They then watched the results in the comfort of their own homes (most with a large glass of wine!) and completed a pro forma which was then used as the starting point for a discussion with their phase leader.   The observations were revealing to staff and the initial thoughts of many were similar  e.g. ‘Do I really sound like that?’ ‘Don’t I say err a lot!’

A common revelation was the ‘over teaching’ staff felt they were doing.   The amount of time spent ‘delivering’ to the whole class in relation to the amount of time the children spent ‘on task’ engaged in their own learning rather than listening to the teacher.   This is an area many have decided to focus on following the observations.

The filming of lessons can be daunting for staff but ultimately the process proved to be very powerful and one worth using again.


About smichael920

Headteacher of a large primary school in North West England. Helping me to blur the distinction between work and home, I am also father of five, covering most phases of education thus giving me the lowdown from within and without. Education is about enjoying today and preparing for tomorrow. This can't be done using the tools of the past. View all posts by smichael920

12 responses to “Developing classroom practice through self observation

  • Bill Lord

    A great blog post – I am a huge believer in this approach and try to encourage teachers to do it as part of the Exit strategy when finishing support to them.
    There are real issues about over delivery in Primary teaching but it is hard to recognise in your own practice. This is a very efficient and effective step forward in self development.

    As an aside I once met a Secondary History Teacher who did it and discovered that his pupils knew when he was less confident in his subject knowledge purely through the number of times he said “Erm” in his delivery!!!

    • smichael920

      Thanks for the feedback Bill – more than a couple of staff commented on their use of ‘errs’! Overall a hugely positive experience though, if somewhat awkward viewing for some! We are using people’s evaluations as the starting point for autumn observations and they are areas staff are keen to develop – truly bespoke rather than top down cpd.

  • Karen NJ

    I’m great advocate of this too. Can also share experience having been filmed myself and been through it – it was pivotal moment of teaching career. I asked brilliant questions – and then went on to answer them all myself! Made me really look at what I was saying and when and, most importantly, stop answering and try to reply to questions with questions to help them delve deeper.
    Should be essential element of own cpd in my view, thanks for sharing.

    • smichael920

      Thanks Karen – like you, I experienced such an approach and found it hugely powerful. The idea never left me and recently I felt we had the right people to make it work. I am delighted staff embraced the idea so readily. It’s something we’ll build on for sure.

  • David Mitchell

    A super post! I’m interested to know how you presented it to them? What was the reaction of the staff? Did all teachers do it?

    I can see the benefits even when I think of my own practice. I’m going to give this some serious thought!

    • smichael920

      Hi David. I first floated the idea with the Leadership team and let them speak to their own teams about it. I was delighted with the response, although some were a bit nervous no one refused (noone took up our offer to go in and film for them! Maybe a step too far but I feel we could have done more for them than a static flip cam!) I have suggested maybe support staff film for teachers next time – we’ll have to see how that goes down!!

  • Bill Lord

    David – in my work I use a Trojan horse / Victor Kiam approach asking one person to go with it first and sell it to the others. I don’t go for the highly tech savvy or good to outstanding teachers as they can’t sell it in the staff room

  • What’s the point of lesson observations? | The Learning Spy - Reflections on my teaching & their learning

    […] this morning I read a great blog post at SMichael920’s blog about teachers observing themselves. What a great idea! Maybe this is the way forward? All I need […]

  • Alison Winter

    I’d love to know how you sold it to ‘all staff’. In my experience of introducing new initiatives, the open- minded/reflective – and good-teachers would try it but the ones with the real problems would avoid it like the plague. Or was it made compulsory?

    • smichael920

      Hi Alison – it was part of our monitoring cycle so staff were expecting an observation of some sort. We’ve used peer to peer and SLT but maybe this was the least daunting! Feedback suggested a couple of staff didn’t get a great deal out of it but their comments on the pro-forma indicated otherwise. Their evaluations identified areas they want to develop and confirmed what they felt they were doing well. I was concerned was that some wouldn’t take it seriously and would simply ‘play the game’. Whether they were carried along with the enthusiasm of everyone else, or simply found the process less daunting than they had anticipated I don’t know, but I was delighted with the ultimate responses and the success of the initiative.

  • IRIS Connect, CPD (@IRIS_Connect)

    Couldn’t agree more! It’s great to hear that teachers are breaking free from the traditional mould of lesson observation and embracing self-reflection through video! Research has shown that adults learn best through practice, and what better way to develop than to watch yourself and analyse your own performance in the classroom, leaning from weak points and congratulating yourself when practice is outstanding. At Iris Connect we make the filming of lessons easier and the analysis more effective. By using mobile cameras and secure software the teacher is put in control of their lesson observations. This gives them the choice of using it as a tool for self-reflection or sharing their videos with colleagues to develop a network of coaching and peer to peer mentoring. The system is permissioned led, each teacher remains in control of their videos only sharing personal videos with colleagues or entire school networks as and when they see fit. Ensuring teachers have full control of lesson observations shifts the focus from a performance management angle to a relevant and personalised CPD resource.

  • What’s the point of lesson observations? | The Creative Education Blog

    […] this morning I read a great blog post at SMichael920’s blog about teachers observing themselves. What a great idea! Maybe this is a way forward? All I need to […]

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