Problem Statement: The vast majority of empirical work on second/foreign language teacher education continues to emphasize the notions of ‘reflective practice’, ‘exploratory teaching’, and the like based on the premise that teachers develop by studying their own practice. To do so, teachers need to collect data and use reflective processes. Classroom observations are one of the most common ways to develop these reflective processes in the teaching profession. In a classroom observation, there are four important possible sources of feedback on teacher performance: peers, learners, teacher trainers, and self. The main question this study seeks to answer is how views of teacher performance vary when multiple observers (in this case, the teachers themselves, learners, peers, and trainers) are invited to watch the same lesson and perform the same observation tasks.
Purpose of the Study: It is recognized that classroom teaching is an extremely complex phenomenon, and observing the act of teaching can lead to substantial amount of learning on the part of teachers. Considering this fact, the present study aims to compare different observers’ views on the same lessons, and to draw out implications for how ‘complex meanings’ can be interpreted in order to give direction to teachers’ professional development.
Method:The structured observations conducted in this study focused on different aspects of classroom teaching. Prior to each observation, the specifically designed observation task, outlined on a task sheet, was explained to all observers. All classes were video recorded, and the observed teachers were given the videos of their classes. The teacher was asked to do the observation task while viewing his/her recorded lesson. Finally, the written feedback from the trainer, colleague, and learner was also shared with the teacher. The sets of four completed observation task sheets (from teachers themselves, learners, colleagues and trainers) constitute the data for the study.
Findings: A content analysis of the written feedback on the completed task sheets indicates that there is a noticeable overall difference between the four participant observers. The results suggest that while there may be some extent of agreement among the views, each observer seems to have a different interpretation of the lessons observed.
Conclusion and Recommendations: One of the implications that can be drawn from the study is the necessity of training learners in teacher evaluation, as well as peer teachers. Such observers must be made more aware of the need for sensitivity in the observation process in general, and the act of giving feedback in particular. The study concludes that while diverse views on feedback may be contradictory to some extent, these views may prove beneficial in that they help teachers understand the complexity of teaching, therefore leading to teacher learning.
Key Words: teacher development, reflective observations, feedback