Using Peer-to-Peer Observation to Develop a Culture of Quality Teaching & Learning

Date: April 23rd 2018

Imagine if there was a CPD exercise which allowed teachers to learn from each other, develop collective expertise and nurture a culture of professional discussion around learning methods, all at the same time? Peer-to-peer observation (PTPO) ticks all of the above, which is why we use it in our academies.

Great teachers are life-long learners, and we strongly believe that effective professional learning should be made available to everyone. We encourage our teachers to continually reflect on their teaching, reinvent teaching methods and keep up with educational trends so that they can provide the best possible education for our students.

PTPO provides a powerful and collaborative way to bring practical work to the forefront of a teacher’s development. It’s also an exercise which is backed up by research which shows it’s effective because we learn the most from our peers. It allows teachers to adopt self-reflection and transfer training to classroom practice. In a nutshell, it helps improve student learning by improving teaching.

What ISN’T peer-to-peer observation?

There’s no room for comparison and criticism. It’s positive and supportive, providing teachers with a safe environment in which to communicate effectively about lesson planning and exchange constructive feedback. This allows teachers to observe, reflect and improve their practice in a constructive way.

What are some of the other benefits of peer-to-peer observation?

PTPO is both beneficial to both the teacher’s professional development and students’ learning. It helps reduce the feeling of isolation amongst teachers and creates a new way in which they can support each other. It also provides an accessible and effective way for them to share their experiences and challenges, especially when it comes to implementing new teaching strategies or technologies.

Whether someone is new to teaching or in a senior leadership position, it benefits those of all experience levels. Everyone works together to address mutual challenges which all teachers can relate to and learn from.

It provides a way for teachers to be confident in discussing challenges they face by providing them with a safe environment in which to do so. What’s the thinking? How do you find that works? Could you try something else? How do you manage the ability range, the behaviour system, the scheme of work, the marking workload, the assessment process? It’s all open for discussion, leading to a healthy exchange.

In addition to this, within this safe environment, teachers are more receptive to suggestions on how they can improve and find it easier to give supportive messages about how things could be better. PTPO takes away the distraction of being removed from their classroom to attend a workshop or conference, meaning it’s a real, practical and immediately relevant way of learning. Pre- and post- discussions about an essential question can also provide educators with an opportunity to dig deeper, something many don’t have enough time to do – and help ensure takeaway from the observation is both applicable and relevant.

Peer-to-peer observation creates a focused line of inquiry both the observed and observers are more likely to take away transformative insight from. This positively affects instructional development in practice and student learning.

Although an indirect benefit, peer-to-peer observation also sets a good example for our students, as teachers are developing professionally through collaboration with their colleagues, an example of how Teamwork (one of the Aldridge Attributes) is essential to success in the world of work.

Aldridge Education tips to make it successful

We help make the exercise successful by ensuring participants trust that the observer is there to provide constructive criticism. We make observations effective by building them on communication which is both open and honest, encouraging teachers to help each other grow professionally.

We run the exercise with the student in mind. Part of our goal at Aldridge Education is to ensure our students fulfil their potential, so therefore participants in PTPO focus on how things can be done differently in the classroom in order to achieve this. We ensure that the expectations of this process are clear and teachers know what the goal of it is, both professionally and for the learning outcomes of their students.

As well as for our students, we also want our teachers to fulfil their potential and provide them with highly effective informal continuous CPD so that they are able to achieve this.

Tagged: cpd learning observation professional development teaching