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Professional Development Through Peer Abservation

By Author: peter
Total Articles: 191

Peer observation is a powerful means by which language teachers can become aware of a broad range of possibilities for conducting classes effectively. While many language teaching professionals will already have experienced peer observation in their training, a recent review of the state-of-the-art in E LT professional development indicates that the practice continues beyond graduate school as an important component of such undertakings as lesson study, team teaching, and peer coaching (Mann 2005) . Of these three, peer coaching makes perhaps the greatest use Links Of London Bracelets of peer observation as colleagues visit one another's classrooms to help refine practices, gather information related to persistent problems, or get and give feedback on the implementation of new teaching methods.

A great deal of the literature on peer coaching, and teacher observation in general, focuses on the post-observation conversation, going to great lengths to warn participants of the risks involved with providing evaluative feedback (Bailey, Curtis, and Nunan 2001; Richards and Farrell 2005). In 'An etiquette for nonsupervisory observation of L2 classrooms', Murphy (1992: 225) includes the statement that 'even well-intentioned feedback to classroom teachers often misfires'. For peer coaching, Showers and Joyce (1996: 15) therefore state that it is 'necessary and important to omit verbal feedback as a coaching component'. Sheal (1989: 93) notes that feedback issues extend to 'official' observations by supervisors and administrators as well, for much observation are unsystematic and subjective. Administrators and teachers generally have not been trained in observation.

Consequently they tend to use themselves as a standard, and they observe impressionistically'. Still, many of these same writers concede that teachers typically ask their observers for feedback, and Cosh (1999) notes that teachers are unlikely to get the full reflective value of being observed if they do not receive any comments. Therefore, it seems unrealistic to expect participants in peer observation to refrain from sharing their opinions on what they have seen. If, on the contrary, the opportunity to exchange insights is embraced as a chance to develop skill and experience with feedback, participants can gain heightened awareness of the power of their positive and negative comments, finding optimal ways to offer guidance that inspires rather than disheartens. This article describes mentor development, an approach to peer observation that taps into teachers' ability to teach themselves, as well as their potential to be valuable resources to one another, by providing frameworks through which colleagues can work together to train themselves in the best practices of observation and mentoring.

The inspiration for mentor development came from a desire to help teachers enhance their Links Of London Necklaces skills and potentially make a transition to teacher training by providing opportunities for colleagues to practise training techniques with, and on, one another. The first participants began by taking part in a number of reading discussions on teacher observation literature, coming to consensus on ground rules for visits to peers' classrooms and the conferences that follow. In ensuing years these reading discussions have been replaced by workshops that give participants hands-on experience with various observation and conferencing techniques recommended by the literature. Once the participants have had some exposure to the key issues involved in peer observation, they are divided into groups of three to begin the actual process.

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