Monday, November 15, 2010

Reflection on Post-observation Conference

A requirement of the Supervision and Professional Development course is to conduct a full clinical observation cycle with a teacher. This included a pre-observation conference, a classroom observation, data analysis and interpretation, and a post-observation conference. We video taped the post-observation conference and then reviewed the video to analyze and critique the process and identify our strengths and areas for improvement as supervisors. The following are my reflections on the full clinical observation process and my skills.

What strengths and/or improvement areas did you notice about the environment and tone of the post-observation? 
Ms. C and I originally planned to have our post-observation conference in the teacher’s lounge/workroom; however, there were two other teachers there and the copier was running so it was not conducive to confidential discussion and reflection. We found another room that was not in use and sat together at one of the tables. I set up the video camera and brought out a folder with my observation notes (scripted narrative and selected verbatim), analysis and the district observation forms. I sat to the left of Ms. C, around the corner of the table rather than across the table as this made it easier to go through the observation notes together. I felt this was a more personal, collaborative seating arrangement compared to sitting across from each other. This was an important consideration since the feedback session we had after I observed Ms. C in Practice Observation #2 had not started smoothly. There had been significant deficiencies that my supervisor and I had observed in the first lesson and these issues had not initially been apparent to Ms. C. It took a lot of delicate maneuvering to build trust and get to the point that Ms. C was able to accept the observations and actively participate in planning improvement. This lesson was a tremendous improvement over that first lesson and I wanted to move forward to a less directive and more collaborative approach.

In reviewing the videotape, I noticed that I made a concerted effort to put Ms. C at ease and be positive and encouraging. A strength was my preparation; I had made two copies of my scripted notes, analysis and evaluation forms and had reviewed everything ahead of time. I was animated and clear in presenting and explaining, but I also “talk with my hands” a lot and use “ummm” a little too frequently.

What strengths and/or improvement areas did you notice in the conference about strategies to improve instruction?

In our pre-observation conference (the first half of which was also a feedback session from Practice Observation #2), we discussed student engagement and addressing the needs of all levels of readiness. In the prior lesson, both of these were areas of concern as was maintaining a tighter focus on the lesson objectives. I offered several suggestions for increasing student engagement and having students work with partners and groups. Ms. C stated that she did use some of those techniques in math but had not done them in ELA. We agreed that I would observe her teaching a math lesson and that she would implement strategies to increase student participation, do frequent checks for understanding and adjust content delivery accordingly. While observing the lesson, I did narrative scripting along with tallying both engagement strategies and off-task behaviors.

During the conference, I showed the scripting & data first and explained my shorthand & use of asterisks. We both made comments & clarifications as we went through the scripting together.
I commented that she put several items into place & gave praise for jumping in with trying new techniques (group work – new protocols to promote engagement, students collaborating & helping each other as a way to support students at all readiness levels.) Ms. C. commented, “You see me applying some of the things you suggested”
We then looked at my analysis of the notes/scripting and tallies. This was where the evidence was really confirmed. She was able to make the connection between the first lesson and the much improved second one– the difference being the greater student engagement.

I made specific comments on positives & improvements & changes in teacher activities and how they affected student engagement, ability to address different levels. Not only was the student engagement much higher and off-task behaviors reduced, Ms. C was also able to easily and quickly check for understanding.

About halfway through – Ms. C was coming up with additional ideas and was displaying confidence that they would be practical and would improve learning.

In the conference, which behavior did you seem to predominantly use? Do you think this was an appropriate approach given the developmental level of the teacher? Briefly explain.

I used a range of behaviors on the continuum but the overall conference was predominantly collaborative. During our previous feedback session, after practice observation # 2, I had taken a more directive informational approach, making several suggestions to Ms. C. I had been very pleased that she had incorporated a number of the engagement techniques we discussed, some which she had previously done and one completely new one. I knew before I left her room that she had realized how much of an improvement these strategies had made in the lesson. This created the right circumstances for moving to a collaborative approach. I was able to present my notes and data and let Ms. C do some clarifying and reflecting. During this post-observation conference, Ms. C was interested and involved in confirming the analysis and took an active role in planning next steps and coming up with further activities. Although I had an objective for further professional growth in mind and was ready to present it to Ms. C, we were actually able to arrive at the same objective together through the discussion and mutual planning. Together we reiterated bringing engagement & group protocols & techniques used in Math into ELA and other subject areas.

One of the biggest positives is that Ms. C is looking forward to my coming back to observe her after winter break and in the early spring and she has a plan for moving forward and incorporating the strategies for student engagement and addressing the needs of all levels of her students. She will gradually incorporate the strategies she is using (and increasing) in math into ELA and other areas of the curriculum.

The full clinical evaluation process was very useful to me as it not only helped me to hone my observation skills, but more importantly helped me to improve on my interpersonal skills I found that I was able to take a situation that started out a little rocky and contentious and turn it around and help to move a teacher forward in her practice. It also helped shed light on areas in which I will need to refine my skills and approach and walk that line between being personable and maintaining professionalism and being a leader.