Getting the most out of observation lesson plans

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October 2, 2015 by gemmalunn

In an ideal world after hours slaving over an extremely down-to-the-last-second detailed lesson plan (LP) you’d hope the amount of feedback you were going to receive would be extensive and provide you with plenty of ideas for development. However, this is sometimes not the case, maybe the feedback session with your peer / line manager is not as detailed or focused as you’d hoped, or as in my case this summer you are observed by an external organisation like the British Council or BALEAP. They usually expect a fairly detailed 90 minute LP and then will drop in at some point for 10-15 minutes and you receive no individual feedback on all your hard work! I found the fact that a full 90 minute lesson plan was required for a 15 minutes observation a bit annoying but obviously necessary to see the context around that snippet. So although on the Sunday night before the observation I wasn’t feeling overly enthusiastic about this extra work (not what you want during a pre-sessional) I looked past that and tried to use the effort that went into producing the LP to my advantage. After the class I thought of some ideas of how to get the most out of the hard work:

– It is much easier to reflect on each aspect of a class when it is clearly written out. I used the LP as an opportunity to do a more in-depth reflection than I normally do by looking at each stage and writing notes on how it went. I did this both during and after the lesson by asking myself questions such as: Were my instructions clear here? What could I have done to make them clearer? (an area I often get pulled up on in observations); Were my timings accurate? If not did it matter or how did it affect the class?; How engaged are students right now?; Are all students participating equally?; What could be done to improve this activity – layout, input, timing, format?; Is the activity meeting the learning aims as I expected?

Lesson Plan

– It is easy to adapt the lesson plan, I noted actual timings compared to planned timings, this should help me in future plans to see whether I generally overestimate or underestimate how long activities will take.

– This process helped me consider the flow of the lesson much more as well as really thinking about the aims and format of each activity in more detail to try and ensure they would maximise learning as much as possible.

– Another possible use of the lesson is to blog about it, you spent so much time planning it that it must be worth sharing!

– The lesson plan could be used as a demonstration lesson at an interview or an example lesson as part of a job application.

– If all else fails you can cut up the plan into tiny pieces and use it as a jigsaw exercise in your next class!

photo from eltpics @yearinthelifeof

photo from eltpics @yearinthelifeof

So, despite the extra work I do feel that once in a while detailed lesson plans can be a useful tool to really analyse and reflect on a class. I also used the same detailed reflection after a formal observation with my Course Director, prior to the post-obs feedback. I found that I was better prepared for the meeting and able to offer more in-depth reflections which my course Director then built on, thus leading to useful and focused feedback. Hopefully after this experience I will approach observation lesson plans with 100% enthusiasm!

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