Learning From and With Each Other
Observation and debriefing, whether it be informal observation of a mentor’s classroom by a beginning teacher or a more formal demonstration classroom or site of learning process, represents a powerful tool for personalized and authentic professional learning.
By learning from and with each other, colleagues begin to build meaningful communities of collaboration focused on the “real world” of teaching and learning in practice.
Core Elements of the Learning Experience
The following core elements are integral to ensuring the classroom observation learning experience is meaningful for all participants.
- An opportunity for visiting teachers to share specific learning goals for the observation with the teacher being observed and/or visit guide
- Focused observation of teaching and learning in the actual classroom over a sustained period of time (e.g. a full morning)
- An opportunity for visiting teachers and mentors to reflect on the classroom experience, ask questions, and share ideas with each other and the hosting teacher, and/or the visit guide (if applicable)
- A structured so what / now what action planning process for applying the learning to each participants’ specific teaching contexts
- Direct assistance for visiting teachers from mentors and/or the visit guide to support the implementation of new ideas and strategies back in their own classrooms
The Importance of Collaborative Debriefing and Action Planning
Classroom observation without collaborative debriefing can have the “orange wallpaper” effect. Participants may like the day, enjoy being in someone else’s classroom, but leave with their next step being to use the same lovely orange wallpaper the demonstration teacher has on their bulletin board.
Immediately following up the classroom observation with a collaborative debriefing and action planning process involving the Classroom Teacher, Mentors, Visit Guide and other visiting teachers allows the focus of the participating teachers to shift away from what they saw to how they can apply their learning to their own teaching context. Focusing on the “so what / now what” provides visiting teachers opportunities to construct the practical next steps they will implement with their own students while simultaneously expanding their web of networking supports.
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