Reflective Peer Observations

Izmir Katip Çelebi University
School of Foreign Languages
‘Teacher Researchers in Action’
Reflective Peer Observations:
What do they reveal?
Dr. Wayne Trotman
Izmir Katip Çelebi University
Why Teacher Research?
• ‘Although teacher research remains a minority
activity in the field of language teaching, has the
potential to be a powerful transformative force in the
professional development of language teachers.’
(Borg, 2013:6)
• ‘Research should aim to enhance teachers’
understanding of some aspect of their work .‘ (Borg,
What is Peer Observation?
‘Peer observation involves monitoring a
lesson or part of a lesson given by a
colleague in order to gain an understanding
of a specific aspect of either teaching,
learning or classroom interaction.’
(Trotman, 2014*)
*Teacher Evaluation in Second Language Education.
Bloomsbury, UK. Eds: Howard, A. & Donoghue, H.
‘In a reflective context, peer observation is not carried out in
order to judge the teaching of others, but to encourage selfreflection and self-awareness about our own teaching.’
(Cosh, 1999)
‘Since peer observations are supportive rather than
evaluative, during such activities teachers are able to learn
from and support each other.’ (Head and Taylor, 1997)
‘Peer observation discussions help teachers to reflect on
their practice and explore the reasons and beliefs that
underlie their classroom behaviour. (Başturkmen, 2007)
How peer observation leads to
development: ‘Kolb’s cycle’ -
Account writing can be via:
Observer narrative: the most important aspects are described
objectively, while any form of initial evaluation is avoided.
Field notes: brief descriptions of key events including the observer’s
reflective interpretations.
Accounts in this study contained descriptions of activities observed
along with observers’ reflective comments.
A third means is via:
Checklists: used as a focused and systematic means of data
collection, although correctly identifying certain features on the
inventory may be problematic.
Reflection is...
‘..the ability to analyse an action systematically
and to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses
of the action in order to improve practice.’
Copland, Ma and Mann (2009: 15)
Research Focus: This study....
investigated who teachers chose to observe
and their reasons
analysed what they chose as a focus and
categorised reflective comments & related
them to evidence of professional
Context and Participants
12 teachers of EFL in the prep’ year at a state
university in Turkey; all NNSps
novice (zero - three years experience)
fairly experienced (three - five years)
experienced (five - ten years)
‘Corpus’ (body of texts):
five novice
four fairly experienced
three experienced
Possible topics of focus
For what purpose and how often does the teacher use the L1? Can you categorise
How does the teacher get the students to produce the target language?
What is the ratio of TTT (Teacher Talking Time) and STT (Student Talking Time)?
Oral error correction: how and how much? Instant or delayed? Examples? How
effective was it?
Instructions: how many? Are they clear and easily understood? Can you label and /
or categorise them?
How does the teacher organise work on the board? Is it clear and legible?
How closely was the teacher able to follow the lesson plan?
Survey Questions:
Who did you choose to observe and
Why did you choose the aspect of the
lesson you focused on?
How do you feel you benefited
professionally from observing a peer
Observer preferences: Who and Why?
In 7/12 cases teachers chose to observe more
experienced colleagues than themselves:
‘She was my partner and more experienced
than me.’ (Self-development)
One observed a less experienced colleague:
‘I chose to observe (X) because she always
comes to me for advice and I thought I could
be of more help if I saw her teaching.’
(Development of other)
Observing a teacher covering the same
material : 4/12
‘We both taught speaking .. I wanted to see
the way she taught the same subjects and
‘She was also teaching the same lessons I was
giving to another class.’
(Self / Mutual-development)
Finding One:
Teacher preference for an observee leads to three possible types of
professional development:
Mutual development
Development of another
Implication One:
Peer observation could / should be used more for mutual
development and the development of others.
Analysis: Observer preferences:
Johnny Saldana, ‘The Coding
Manual for Qualitative
Researchers’ (2012).
Classroom Management: 6 / 12
Giving instructions
L1 use
Classrom Language focus: 5 / 12
Grammar teaching
Table 1: Categories of focus
Issuing instructions / Ending the lesson (N)
CM focused
Teacher Perspective
CM focused
Teacher Perspective
CL focused
Teacher Perspective
Student focused
Student Perspective
Issuing instructions (N)
L1 Use for classroom
Teaching and revising Modals /
L1 Use
Grammar teaching in English (N)
L1 / L2 Use for teaching grammar
Student attitudes towards a NEST / L1 Use
Fındings Two:
How colleagues manage their classroom is of interest to observing teachers,
while the teaching of grammar is also clearly an interest.
4 / 5 novice teachers (N) indicated a concern for classroom management,
perhaps reflecting a need for training in this area.
In only 1 / 12 accounts was the observer viewing the lesson from the
perspective of the students.
Implication Two:
Observers and observees should try to investigate, reflect and evaluate
matters more from the perspective of the students being taught.
Analysis: Observer preferences: Why?
A follow up survey of open-ended questions to investigate their reasons: (10 / 12)
Responsesfrom novice teachers (N) - with between one and three years’ experience –
indicate peer observation for problem solving.
Other categories revealed how comparison with a colleague was the dominant
feature in five of the ten cases,
In three cases there appeared to be a perceived lack of skills on the part of the
observing teacher.
The other two cases were related to the development of self and other.
Topic of Focus
Reason Given
(N) I focused on the strategies my peer used
to see how she gave feedback to students
to teach reading
(N) I focused on giving instructions
because I thought my students sometimes
failed to understand my instructions
Lack of skills
She tried not to use L1 while teaching
and this is an aspect of her teaching she
Supporting development
wants to work on
L1 use
(Because) I wanted to see how L1 could be
used for teaching grammar with weaker
Observer developmental outcomes:
9 / 12 = pedagogical knowledge:
Transferable skills that could be implemented in future
3 / 12 = affective / emotional:
‘Subjective qualities of human experience’ (Saldana, 2012: 86)
Reflective comment
Learning Outcome
His use of the L1 seemed to make students feel
Affective: empathy
Native speaker knowledge of the L1 of
more self-confident
the target group is a desirable feature of
I’ve had difficulties in giving students
instructions (and) I made a lot of effort to get
Eleven different instructions, e.g, “Don’t
Pedagogical knowledge
them to comprehend (but) I was not sure if
write them now, I’ll give you time for it
they understood
I liked the way she used her fingers in order not
Pedagogical knowledge
Production and correction techniques
Pedagogical knowledge
L1 use by the teacher is reasonable when
to speak but to make students speak in English
(she) resorted to L1 both to clarify key parts
and demonstrate how sentences can be
translated into Turkish.
students are low-proficiency learners
Conclusions and Implications
Teachers clearly prefer peer observation; being observed by a trainer with
a checklist they view more as an official evaluation.
Teachers prefer to observe a partner, a friend or a more experienced
colleague, the latter being particularly true for novice teachers.
On only two occasions in this study did teachers observe those with less
experience than themselves, and it would perhaps be of use for both
parties if more experienced colleagues, especially those in administerial
and training positions, carried out peer observations with less experienced
Observer focus was divided largely into either classroom management or
classroom language. Within the category of classroom management, along
with giving instructions, L1 use and discipline dominated.
Most of the language focused coding indicated an interest in grammar
teaching; the remaining accounts looked at skills teaching.
Since all observers but one focused on matters taking place from the
perspective of the observee, it would be advisable for trainers to
encourage teachers observing their peers to try to see things from the
perspective of the learner.
Five cases featured comparison with a colleague while in three others
there was a self perception of a lack of skills. Self and other development
were also an interest. It was noticeable that three cases opted to
investigate the use or otherwise of the L1.
Developmental outcomes tended to be largely pedagogic, and to a lesser
extent affective, with the former showing more measurable evidence than
While those in the pedagogic category related predominantly to classroom
management, affective factors could be further described as emotional, as
they tended to be empathetic in tone.
Follow up: Observing participants to investigate whether measurable
learning outcomes (such as acquiring a new vocabulary teaching technique
and giving clearer instructions) had become an integral part of their
knowledge base, and thus something they could demonstrate in the
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Development, 12, 14-23.
Cosh, J. (1999), ‘Peer Observation: a reflective model’. English Language Teaching Journal, 53
(1), 22-27
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My thanks to the following teachers at IKÇÜ for agreeing to
my use of data they generated:
Kevser Özdemir
Nazlı Civelekoğlu
Mebruke Ömür
Semra Küçük
Nazile Şen
Neslihan Köroğlu
İclal Karataş
Suzan Yıldırım
Nida Fidanboy
Ayşen Özel
Ercan Afacan
Anıl Çobanoğlu
Thank you for attending today
..enjoy the rest of the programme.
[email protected]

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