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Using Classroom Observations to Promote Teacher Self-Efficacy: A Teacher's Perspective
posted by: Alana | October 26, 2016, 02:53 PM   

Guest Post by Terry Pearson


During my teaching career in England, which has spanned more than 30 years, I have been very privileged to visit in excess of one thousand teachers, in a wide variety of settings, to observe them at work in their classrooms. Recently though, from what I have read about and even seen the way classroom observations are being deployed in schools and other education and training organizations across the globe, I suspect that America’s teachers are getting pretty used to a ‘litmus-paper’ approach to classroom observation. By this I mean an observer dips into a lesson, or watches a short video of a lesson, and uses a record of what was noticed to form a judgement as to where the teacher, or the lesson, sits within a pre-determined cluster of ratings or categories. I use this terminology as this method of observation can be likened to that of briefly dipping a piece of litmus paper into a solution and using the resulting color of the paper to determine the strength of acidity or alkalinity of the solution.


Judgmental classroom observations of the ‘litmus paper’ type are primarily founded on the belief that classroom observation is most effective at helping teachers to enhance their practice when it rates or categorizes the teacher or the teaching and then follows this up with the observer spending some time giving feedback to the teacher. This approach to classroom observation has been in widespread use in England for almost one quarter of a century and yet it is still beset with many problems. Reclaiming Lesson Observation: Supporting excellence in teacher learning is a new publication that lifts the lid on the practice of classroom observations in England’s schools, further education colleges, universities and other education and training institutions. It pulls together a collection of chapters that have been written by a range of educators. These chapters open up to readers the very real experiences, concerns and hopes of education professionals who are involved in the day-to-day implementation of classroom observations as they tackle the task of using observations to support meaningful learning experiences for teachers.


As the author of Chapter 12 of this book, I explore how lesson observations may be used to generate valuable information to support the development of teacher self-efficacy in the classroom. Teacher self-efficacy has been shown to make a major contribution to a teacher’s success when working with their students. Nonetheless, the chapter raises doubts about the capacity of third-party judgmental observations, which are becoming ever more common practice in education organizations throughout the world, to support most effectively the development of teachers’ efficacy in their classrooms.


An initial review of literature relating to teacher self-efficacy showed that a range of lesson observation approaches can be used to engage teachers in learning about their practice in the classroom, and learning about the classroom practice of their colleagues. It also led to the conclusion that these approaches have very real potential to be more effective than the judgemental practices that are prevalent in many education settings.


A framework is presented and explained in the chapter as a means of stimulating thinking and encouraging discussion of how lesson observation may be used more effectively to develop teachers’ perceptions of their self-efficacy.


You could try out the framework in your place of work. I would be interested to hear about how it works for you.



Pearson, T., 2016. USING LESSON OBSERVATIONS TO PROMOTE TEACHER SELF-EFFICACY. In Reclaiming Lesson Observation: Supporting excellence in teacher learning. O'Leary, M. ed., Routledge.


Terry Pearson biography

Terry began his teaching career as a vocational lecturer in 1985 in a further education college in England. Since then he has held senior positions in the Further Education and Higher Education sectors with responsibilities for staff development, teacher education and quality enhancement. He has designed and implemented a broad range of lesson observation schemes. Terry is passionate about research-informed and evidence-supported practice and now works independently as an education researcher and consultant.


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