Philosophy

Hadlow CollegeHadlow CollegeHadlow College

Observation is complex. There is so much to learn from it, yet often, we make it something it's not. The sector has used single observations before as a 'catch all', a 'one stop' to judge the quality of learners' experience. Things have moved on and we now see other evaluative methods being used, but still, there are many potential pitfalls with observation.

We want to make it clear that we believe observation is a valuable method that we can use, alongside other methods, to learn about learners, how they learn, how their experiences differ, and how we can best meet their needs. We believe that observation works best when it's a development process in which teachers, observers, managers, and learners can all learn together.  Done well, observing sessions should make us feel good, not drag us down. They should feel like an opportunity to explore and reflect and discuss our passion: Learning.

This means we encourage observers to take an equal role in learning from observation. The observer gets to observe (and the observation can be done in many ways) and is in a wonderful position to then share what they saw from their unique perspective and ask questions that can lead to exploration.

We urge observers to keep an open mind and remain 'unsure' as much as possible through these observation activities. All too often, observers 'seek to be understood' by the teachers they are working with. This often means gathering evidence and attempting to reach an absolute answer that cannot be altered. The ego, and normal human protective mechanisms can get in the way here, and this is usually not the best way to develop an open and trusting relationship where teachers feel involved, valued and empowered. So, instead we ask you to 'seek to understand' (Thanks to Stephen Covey for this wonderful quote which can serve observers / improvers, and teachers so well). We will challenge you to do that along the way.

For teachers, we encourage lots of reflection and exploration.  We want you to feel safe to explore your practice and consider your learners through open, thoughtful dialogue.

It's important to note that this is real life footage from everyday sessions. We've made it all as real as possible in order to mimic what evaluation of learners' experiences is really like. This means that you don't get 'all the information', because in real life, you don't either. There are always questions we want to ask learners and teachers and there are always more sessions to see, more learners to talk to, more learner work to analyse and more discussions to be had with teachers. The idea about this package is you work towards deciding what you do and don't yet know. That's how evaluation works when it is done really well. It is continuous, never ending, and it answers:

  • What do we know about learners' experiences?
  • What do we not yet know?
  • What do we want to achieve?
  • What can we do to get us there?
  • How will we know when we are there?

 

For observers, this package helps you develop these skills to answer such questions on an individual (one learner group, with one session) to a departmental scale (3 curriculum areas with a variety of evidence).  For teachers, you can view lessons and reflect as you go using the same set of questions too.

We ask that you keep an open mind, be prepared to challenge your own thinking, and explore.  We hope you enjoy learning with us.