Magnifying classroom practice
Magnifying classroom practice provides an opportunity for teachers to observe quality practice in a regular classroom environment in order to improve their own understanding of a particular practice or approach.
Each session requires a team of teachers who have identified a common area of teaching and learning that they would like to see in practice. For example, personalising learning, project-based learning, classroom management, collaborative learning, integrating explicit teaching of a literacy skill.
The group of participating teachers are led by an experienced teacher facilitator and are briefed on the area of practice that the observation will focus on. Participating teachers then observe a section of a lesson, delivered by a teacher who has demonstrated expertise in this area, paying close attention to the elements of practice that they might adopt or adapt. Participating teachers then engage in a debrief discussion with their facilitator and colleagues to discuss elements of the practice that might inform their own practice. Participating teachers then trial these strategies and reflect on their experiences following the trial.
- The process develops a shared school vision and builds capacity across the school, building on the expertise from within the school context.
- The focus is on collaborative lesson observation for the benefit of the observers.
- The emphasis is on teachers learning from the observed teacher, with little to no focus on providing feedback to the teacher.
- The observation is of how teaching strategies have impacted student learning and engagement.
- The process can be undertaken as frequently as desired and is applicable to any element of teaching and learning.
How do I facilitate magnifying classroom practice?
Observing teacher practice enables colleagues to share and promote teaching as a collaborative, visible and evolving process. Viewing skilled practitioners within the relevant school context deepens the observing teachers' knowledge and skill set.
Stage 1 – Planning
- The facilitator gathers a team of teachers (usually 3-6 teachers) who have identified a common area of teaching and learning that they would like to see in practice. This may be a aligned to their performance and development plan. Practices to be observed may include personalising learning, project-based learning, classroom management, collaborative learning, integrating explicit teaching of a literacy skill etc.
- The facilitator identifies a teacher who demonstrates exemplary practice within this focus area and arranges a lesson observation to be conducted.
- The facilitator discusses with the classroom teacher the details of the lesson to be observed, providing background and context for the participants. The facilitator seeks permission from the teacher for observers to discuss the learning with students when they conduct their observation.
Stage 2 – Lesson observation
- The facilitator meets with the observing teachers somewhere other than the classroom where the observation will take place to provide information about the key focus area (approximately 10 minutes). For example, if the observation is about project-based learning, the facilitator may provide information on the approach and an insight into the model and why it is used. The facilitator then explains to participating teachers what they can expect to see in the lesson, sharing the background information provided by the teacher being observed. Specific reference is made to key elements of the focus area. The facilitator also asks participants to be respectful of the learning process as they enter the room and to ensure that what they observe is not discussed outside of the magnifying classroom practice process unless agreed by the observed teacher.
- The facilitator leads the groups of teachers to observe a section of the lesson (approximately 20 minutes). Teachers may use the Magnifying classroom practice template (.DOCX 45KB) to observe and discuss the strategies observed.
- In a space other than the classroom, the teachers and facilitator engage in a debrief discussion led by their facilitator to discuss elements of the practice seen that are transferable into their classroom contexts (approximately 15 minutes). The facilitator may provide additional information for further investigation. For example, if the observation was about a specific literacy strategy, the facilitator may provide samples, strategies or link to resources.
Stage 3 - Scaling practice (extension)
- The teachers who observed the lesson trial a strategy based on their observation and reflect on their experiences and effectiveness following the trial.
- The facilitator may arrange subsequent magnifying classroom practice sessions where participating teachers open their classroom for a second iteration of magnifying classroom practice to demonstrate their use of a strategy which was trialled after their experience of the first session. There is opportunity for mentoring by the original observed teacher to design teaching and learning activities.
Things to consider
The completion of a single cycle can be time-intensive. Reviewing and revising school structures may be necessary to provide sufficient professional learning time. Magnifying classroom practice relies on a commitment to collaborative learning that takes into account the school context, professional learning culture, the experiences of teachers and the needs of students.