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Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate

Appendix 4b A Guide to Creating Learning Conversations: The Ask-Describe-Ask Formula (National College web-site)
This guide to using the Ask-Describe-Ask formula will enable you to create effective learning conversations following lesson observations.

1. Using a descriptive feedback model after lesson observation 2. Learning conversations using the Ask-Describe-Ask process 3. The ask-describe-ask process 4. Creating a learning conversation culture 5. Having a learning mind-set 6. Reading list

"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Maya Angelou

1. Using a descriptive feedback model after lesson observation Lesson observation and the feedback that follows, when done well, can be a liberating process for both observer and observee, deepening understanding and expertise, and creating the conditions for high quality pupil learning. This is about moving from a traditional observation process, overly reliant on a judgmental 'tell' process that has the observer telling the observee what and how to improve, to one where the observer and observee jointly learn in a learning conversation based on descriptive information or evidence. However, the lesson observation and feedback process can be fraught with difficulty, especially where the observer also has a formal leadership role and the teacher being observed perceives lesson observation as a threat. Observees can complain that feedback is negative and vague, and as one colleague remarked, "To be told to 'Keep on doing what I'm doing' does not help me in any way." Douglas Reeves says: "Criticisms of feedback information after lesson observations are that they have a tendency to be either too strict or too lenient, or simply confusing for the person receiving the information." [1]

Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
The following example exemplifies the issue: Example 1 "You did well, and I felt that you kept a tight rein on behaviour. However, I thought your questioning style was limited and very biased towards the boys. Overall, I enjoyed the lesson." [2] This comment gives a bit of praise, a bit of criticism and ends again with a bit of praise. It is the archetypal Praise-Criticism-Praise sandwich. The challenge for the teacher is in trying to unpack what is really being said here. A teacher, who enjoys a relationship of trust with the observer, may simply resolve the problem by asking the observer to explain more clearly what is meant by the statement. When there is deep respect between observer and observee, the process is likely to be more meaningful. But for many of us, we often observe, or are observed by, colleagues whom we don't necessarily know very well. Moreover, if there is a lack of trust, an effective learning conversation becomes impossible. The problem with the style of feedback above is that it is judgmental and is not so effective at creating the conditions for the observed colleague to learn. In this situation, the observed colleague can often be marginalised or less involved in his or her own learning, passively accepting information with little attempt at analysis. In more extreme cases, observed colleagues can become resentful, defensive and even antagonistic at what they perceive as inexplicable criticism. The challenge for both the observer coach and the observed colleague is to create the conditions for a rich dialogue around learning that supports the observed colleague in a reflection process based on evidence. Solid foundations for this process can be established by the use of descriptive language as follows:

Example 2 "At the stage where you engaged with the children in question and answer, you posed 12 questions on the topic. Nine of the questions were closed questions and ten of the questions were answered by boys. I'm interested in your thinking on this?" [2] This second example subtly shifts from a top-down approach to one between two individuals involved in a joint learning enquiry. There is no judgement here. The observer gives descriptive feedback that is designed to stimulate reflective thought and is part of a formative process to help the teacher develop deeper understanding. This approach is deeply empowering, designed to develop the teacher's own ability to improve his or her own practice. The discussion might focus on the fact that the teacher was in fact focusing on boys for a particular reason, or that closed questions were being used to scaffold the learning towards more openended work later on. Or it might be that the teacher was simply unaware of the focus on boys or lower order questions, and this stimulates the direction of the learning conversation. The key here is the dialogue between the two colleagues that emphasises a coaching style as opposed to a telling style (see the article entitled 'Moving Zones', available in Related Links). For effective learning conversations, the old feedback sandwich of Praise-Criticism-Praise should be replaced by the Ask-Describe-Ask guidelines as follows. Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
2. Learning conversations using the Ask-Describe-Ask process [3] There are three key steps in the Ask-Describe-Ask process: a. pre-observation focus conversation b. observation around the focus area c. and a learning conversation using the Ask-Describe-Ask process that has the observer: 1. asking the colleague to reflect on his or her performance first 2. describing what was observed 3. asking about understanding and strategies for improvement A. Pre-observation conversation The purpose of this is to create a commonly agreed view on what effective practice in a chosen focus area might look like. For instance, in one observation the teacher chose the observation theme "the challenge for every child". Here, the observer and observee pose questions focused on the observation theme. For instance, if every child is being challenged to the level of their ability, what would we see? Answers can range from "every child answering questions" to "pupils initiating questions", "children dealing with higher order questions", "activities used to stretch each child in terms of knowledge and understanding skills" and so on. Once agreement is reached, the teacher can go into the class with a clear idea about what he or she is going to focus on, while the observer can go into the class with a clear idea of what to look for. In addition, at this meeting, observer and observee can agree on how information will be collected. Most commonly, this will be simple descriptive statements of what the observer sees in the chosen focus area. However, use can be made of information collecting processes such as transcripts, movement patterns, symbol charts, audio recordings and video. The rule of thumb is that whatever system is used, it should be agreed beforehand and kept simple. This meeting is designed to develop trust and common understanding around the process and lays a solid foundation for the post-observation learning conversation.

B. Lesson observation The brief of the observee is to try to teach as normally as possible. This is not a 'crit' lesson and is certainly not a 'showcase' event. Its purpose is to improve the learning of both observer and observee around a chosen theme. The observee may wish the observer to watch part of an everyday lesson. However, the observee may wish to focus on something that has been causing concern, keen to view this through the eyes of the observer. In this case, it is vital to keep things as normal as possible. Alternatively, the observee might be trying out some new work in very different conditions from normal, to be followed by formative discussion with the observer. Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
The brief of the observer is to gather descriptive information on the agreed observation them, using whatever system has been agreed upon. The key question for the observer is: "In the brief time I am in the classroom what do I see around the agreed focus?" C. The follow-up learning conversation The follow-up learning conversation should ideally take place in the observation location or alternatively in a location chosen by the observee. This is not a formal review process and the emphasis should be on informality and learning. Enough time should be allocated to allow the conversation to develop. The learning conversation is always split into a feedback sandwich where the observer uses the Ask-Describe-Ask process. 3. The Ask-Describe-Ask process Stage 1. Ask the observed colleague to assess his or her own performance first

What were his/her goals? What went well and what could have gone better?

We do this because it starts a dialogue; ensures the colleague is heard; is useful for tailoring feedback and puts the focus on the learning of the colleague. Commentary This stage is vital for the observer, whose role is to help the colleague give his or her initial views on how the lesson went. This ensures that the observee's voice is heard at the very beginning of the conversation and that the conversation is anchored by his or her thinking. It gives further information to the observer, supplementing the descriptive data that has been gathered through the observation process. The observee's insights will frame the approach adopted by the observer, helping tailor the observer's questions. Role of the observee at this stage: honest self-reflection on what went well and what could have gone better. Respond to questions from observer. Help put observer at ease. Role of the observer at this stage: ask questions to help observee reflect. Listen carefully and actively, Help put observee at ease. Stage 2. Describe what you observed • • • give descriptive information to the observee use phrases like "I observed ..." or "The following evidence is ..." or "The pupil said ..." to create a description of what you saw and lay the platform for a discussion about learning and teaching respond to the observee's views in order to promote joint reflection and analysis Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
Commentary Here the observer describes what was seen as regards the chosen theme, as well as giving feedback on the observee's view of the lesson. The key here is to use descriptive language. This does not mean that the observer cannot give a viewpoint, but descriptive information must be at the heart of the process. It is this descriptive information, stripped out of all evaluation, that both colleagues can use for a learning conversation, as the following report from an observer of a primary teacher demonstrates: "Not content with my descriptive feedback, the teacher asked me to show him how he had run a particular sequence of interaction with group pupils. Together we stood where he had positioned himself and talked through the interaction between himself and the pupils." Here, both the observee and observer explore the descriptive information for learning and ideas that may provide the basis for possible next steps. Role of the observee at this stage: help the observer in the process of giving feedback by asking for clarification and further detail when necessary. With the observer reflect on what is being conveyed in terms of the descriptive information. Make connections between your self-assessment and the descriptive data. Look for areas that might suggest some next steps. Explore the learning for yourself and the observer. Role of the observer at this stage: give clear descriptive information. With thte observee reflect on what the evidence means. Make connections between the observee's self-assessment and the descriptive data. Look for areas that might suggest some next steps. Explore the learning for yourself and the observee. Stage 3. Ask about the learning and strategies for improvement What is our learning and what could the observee do differently? •

give your own suggestions if appropriate but remember your challenge is to help the observee sustain change without your support go over the evidence again if necessary, even replay parts of the lesson, for example, "show me how you did that" identify next steps and commit to monitoring improvement together

Commentary Here the observer asks about the learning that has taken place and next steps for improvement, generated by the learning conversation. A question here might be: "Given our discussions, what learning might you explore or apply?" The key for improvement is to lay the foundation for a joint learning enquiry with much more emphasis on a non-evaluative approach than traditional forms of feedback. This is demonstrated by another comment from the above observer in his learning conversation with a primary teacher: Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
"The teacher invited me to give my own ideas. This is an area fraught with difficulty for an observer, as the overall role is to help the colleague to initiate and sustain the change on their own without having to rely on observer suggestions. However, where there is mutual respect and a joint commitment to learning, it can be appropriate. The teacher concerned proved this again and again by taking the ideas we generated to use them as a catalyst for next steps." The dialogue that follows an observation is an essential part of the learning process and can contribute substantially to both the observer's and observee's professional development. Role of observer and observee at this stage: this is the key stage in the process and both colleagues need to take responsibility for teasing out meaning from the descriptive information, developing joint learning and understanding, and identifying some next steps.

4. Creating the learning conversation culture • • • the challenge is to have a conversation that is a learning one rather than a telling one although observees should always feel free to ask for more directive information if they wish both observer and observee need to be clear that the role of the observer is to give descriptive information on the chosen theme for the lesson observation and use a questioning stance around this the conversation will always be about the inter-relationship between the learning of the pupils and the teaching of the teacher - the ensuing conversation on this relationship allows both to reflect on how effectively the learning needs of pupils were met, and explore and initiate sustainable next steps in response to this the ultimate responsibility of both colleagues is to the learning of each pupil and the conversation cannot lose sight of this - both colleagues must rigorously ensure that the conversation is pursued to this purpose both colleagues need to exercise care and sensitivity in using the practice of the observee as a foundation for a learning conversation: the following quotes highlight some of the potential tensions

• •

"Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all." Thomas Szasz "Effective leaders do not get the relationship right and then tackle the educational challenges - they incorporate both sets of constraints into their problem-solving." [4] 5. Having a Learning Mind-Set "You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself." (Galileo) The conversations we conduct with colleagues in school can provide the basis for positive action. By describing, summarising, paraphrasing, clarifying, questioning and interpreting, we support a reflective process that colleagues can apply on their own. Equally important is the issue of respect, as the following story illustrates. Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
Story Bryn Terfel, the great Welsh opera singer, gave a radio interview a few years back where he described rehearsals in Chicago for Steven Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd, a terribly difficult part. Terfel was a great admirer of Sondheim. One day, Sondheim came and observed rehearsals. Afterwards, the great man cam into the dressing room to give Terfel some feedback about the notes he had made. Terfel was understandably nervous but was relieved to say that not much appeared to have been written on the paper that Sondheim had in his hand. In fact, Sondheim didn't give any feedback and they talked about this and that, and at the end of the meeting Sondheim screwed up the paper and threw it into the bin. He had hardly gone out the door when Terfel was in the bin and looking at Sondheim's comments. From these it was clear that Terfel had missed out a couple of words; this was a technical issue that didn't concern Terfel. However, there was one other comment. A reference to one note at the end of a piece of singing from Terfel that Sondheim wanted to be longer and more demonstrable. Terfel took this on board and practised this note relentlessly. The end result was that he won awards for his stunning performance. The moral of the story? When you respect the giver of feedback when your mindset is a learning one, when you want to do the best you can, then you take on board feedback with enthusiasm. And of course, you have to be a reflective person in the first place! The challenge in supporting change and innovation in the practice of colleagues is not just about improving existing processes, but also about doing things differently. There is a great piece of graffiti from the New York underground that says: "If you only do what you do, you will only get what you've got." Learning conversations support colleagues to discuss and explore existing practice in order to go beyond it.

Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk

Presentation on Lesson Observation – for the Algerian Inspectorate
6. Reading List
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R F Elmore, Building a New Structure for School Leadership (Washington DC: Albert Shanker Institute, 2000). J W Little, 'Norms of collegiality and experimentation: workplace conditions of school success', American Educational Research Journal, 19:3 (1982) pp325-340. I McPhail & A Vass, Coaching and Reflecting Pocketbook (Teachers' Pocketbooks: Hampshire, 2006). D Reeves, Leadership and Learning, Monograph Series 43 (AECL, 2008). Gary Bloom's presentation to Ontario Ministry of Education, Toronto, October 19 2007. Available at: //www.curriculum.org/GaryBloom/files/KeynoteSlides.ppt (accessed 22 May 2011). Timothy Brighouse, 'The jigsaw of a successful school - fifteen essential pieces', INFORM Magazine. Available at: //www.rm.com/Secondary/InTheNews/Article.asp? cref=MNEWS594924 (accessed 17 January 2009). Lyuba Konopasek, John Encandela, Gingi Pica, 'Using the new feedback sandwich to provide effective feedback', Faculty Development Workshop. Available at: //www.slidefinder.net/U/Using_New_Feedback_Sandwich_Provide/24326399 (accessed 22 May 2011).

[1] D Reeves, Leadership and Learning, Monograph Series 43 (AECL, 2008). [2] Examples 1 and 2 adapted from McPhail and Vass, Coaching and Reflecting Pocketbook (Teachers' Pocketbooks: Hampshire, 2006). [3] Based on Lyuba Konopasek, John Encandela, Gingi Pica, 'Using the new feedback sandwich to provide effective feedback', Faculty Development Workshop. Available at: //www.slidefinder.net/U/Using_New_Feedback_Sandwich_Provide/24326399 (accessed 22 May 2011). [4] V Robinson, C Lloyd & K Rowe, 'The impact of leadership on student outcomes: an analysis of the differential effects of leadership types, Educational Administration Quarterly, 44(5), (2008), pp635-674.

Phil Silvester CBE – p.silvester@hotmail.co.uk