Observer Server

It’s easy for everyone to slip back into old ways, unless, that is, you have an Observer server.

HOW?
Ask for one or two volunteers to be Observer Servers. Explain that this involves watching what goes on during the activity (or the whole lesson) and reporting back to the group at the end. The Observers look at how members of the class work together. The Observers might be given an open brief: “Note down anything you see which helps the group to get its work done and anything, which hinders it”. The rule is: just name the behaviour, don’t name the person. Or they might have more structured questions to answer such as:

Did you notice any of these behaviours? What effect did they have? • • • • • • • • • • • • • • interrupting inviting someone to contribute shouting out ignoring making fun adding to someone else’s idea contradicting asking someone a question summing up congratulating being rude withdrawing … …

What were people doing apart from the job they were supposed to be doing? Were there any leaders? How did they become leaders? What did they do as leaders? What did the teacher do to help and hinder the group? What advice would you give the group for next time?

Ensure that there is enough time left at the end for the Observers to feed back and to conduct a Round of “What I personally intend to improve next time is ..”.

APPLICATIONS
Observers can be useful in any setting where the whole class or small groups are asked to work co-operatively: • • ordinary lessons specially devised exercises to test or improve the quality of group interactions (Murder Hunt for example)

WHY DO IT?
With so much pressure to cover content these days, it is easy to neglect the process of learning in general and the quality of group interactions in particular. However, we know that for optimum learning to occur, the brain requires a sense of security, wellbeing and the absence of threat – emotional, psychological and physical. Observer Servers promote reflection and contribute to everyone learning how to learn. The technique also helps to establish the skills of giving and receiving feedback.

VARIATIONS
♦ Use a video recording of the activity to ‘feed back’ to the class rather than a human observer. ♦ Swop Observer Servers part way through the activity / lesson so you get more people involved and more perspectives. ♦ Make the Observer Server a high status role – to undertake the role, you must be willing to catch up with the classwork later!

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