1. Judgement and evaluation
- The evaluative nature of the process could place teachers under stress, with judgements about the quality of their practice being made on the basis of a snapshot of their teaching. This amount of stress and anxiety is not fertile soil for an effective learning experience!
- The process could leave practitioners focused on the grading label received (for better or for worse), rather than reflecting on the detail of their practice, its impact, and what they need to do to move things forward.
- If the practitioner knows that their practice is being evaluated by another party, they may not feel safe enough to expose their vulnerabilities or admit to weaknesses. Alternatively, they may be inclined to put on a show and to embellish or elaborate their lesson, thereby making it unrepresentative of their everyday practice. In either circumstance, the validity of the observation process is affected, and its usefulness as a tool for supporting practitioner development is compromised. If the aim of observation is to support practitioner learning and development by stimulating their reflection on the reality of their day-to-day practice, then a climate in which the practitioner feels safe enough to expose the ‘warts and all’ nature of their work would be desired. However, judgement and evaluation serve in the opposite direction.
- Judgemental or evaluative feedback holds less informational value than specific feedback about the nature of the practice observed, and it is the latter that is the more powerful driver of development. We know this to be true with children, and have adapted methods of assessment in schools to reflect this principle; that is, we maximize the specific informational value of assessment feedback given to students while decreasing the emphasis on any evaluative component (William & Black, 2006). The same principle can apply with adults if we want them to learn optimally.
Now, since September 2014, Ofsted has moved away from the practice of grading individual lessons during school inspections, and as a result evaluative grading labels may no longer be overtly used in the observation process. Nonetheless, evaluative grading has been a part of the landscape for so long that it may take time for old habits to completely disappear from consciousness. Furthermore, irrespective of whether grading labels are used, the practice of carrying out evaluative observations may well remain in some schools as part of a broader performance appraisal process. However, if the purpose of the observation is not to appraise performance but to provide the individual with a constructive developmental learning experience, then in my view, for the reasons outlined, judgement and evaluation should be squarely removed from the process.
2. Learner passivity
3. Status dynamics
That will be the focus of my blog in Term 2.
Schein, E. (1999). Process Consultation Revisited: Building the Helping Relationship. New York: Addison-Wesley.
William, D. & Black, P. (1998). Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment. London: GL Assessment.