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Using The In-service Feedback Session To Actively Promote Teacher Self-Development
by Henny Burke
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Phase two - Focussing

The second phase of the feedback session also consists of the supervisor in the role of understander actively listening to the teacher. However, the aim of this phase is to encourage the teacher to think beyond the observed lesson and reflect on the class in general.

In order to do this I use focussing circles (Edge 1992:37-39). I ask the teacher to write down the name of the class and draw two circles round it.

The space between the circles is divided into four segments and the teacher writes in anything s/he wants to, all the while talking out loud his/her thought processes. At first the teacher may find it difficult to think of anything but it is important for the supervisor to resist the temptation to tell the teacher what to write. One teacher filled in the following:

The supervisor then invites the teacher to take one of the elements and put it into the centre of another circle and then repeat the process. This teacher chose to focus on the coursebook.

By talking through and re-focussing in this way this teacher was able to identify a problem she was having with the class which in this case was her dislike of the coursebook. However, there were other problems also going on in the class which became evident from her initial circle. There was an odd mixture in the class - seven teenage girls and a thirty-year-old man. She felt it was difficult to find material that could engage all the students.

This teacher and the class had "grown into each other". They had not started off the course together and the teacher had taken the class over from a much more experienced teacher who had had a very good rapport with the group. The new teacher felt unable to take the place of their former teacher, but felt at least she and the students had grown used to each others' way of working.

All the areas mentioned above were touched on while the teacher was talking through the focussing circles. These are areas that an observer might not see in a sixty minute observation because they are not immediately obvious or visible. The observer might perceive tension in the class and speculate as to why it might occur, but it will always remain speculation.

If feedback sessions are to be of any benefit whatsoever, the observer/supervisor must have a clear picture of what the teacher is perceiving. I feel this can be achieved if the supervisor acts as understander and actively listens to the teacher. Furthermore, being actively listened to is of the utmost importance for the teacher who learns more about him/herself by expressing him/herself and hearing him/herself. In this way self-development can take place.

Phase Three - Prescription

The third phase of the feedback session entails the supervisor coming out of the role of understander and talking through his/her own impressions of the observed class. I find it useful to refer to notes made during the observation under the headings of:

Time     Interaction          Field Notes

4.30          T-SS             Building up situation at board

As far as possible, under the headings of field notes, I try to describe what is going on in the class rather than evaluate. There is obviously a place for evaluation, but I feel spoken evaluation should take place during the face-to-face interaction of the feedback session in phase three. The written notes can serve as a visual record of the observed class which is useful for both the supervisor and the teacher.

The advantage of doing more prescriptive feedback after spending at least two thirds of the feedback session on active listening is that the observer has a much clearer sense of what the teacher is aware of. Thus one interesting aspect that came up from my observation was that Josť, the thirty year old man, seemed much weaker than the other students. The teacher had interpreted the problem in classroom dynamic as being one of a problem in age difference whereas, for me, it seemed to be more of a problem in language level. Tracing the interaction patterns on the written profile is also useful as it became clear that Jose had sat on the edge of the semi-circle throughout the whole lesson and had in fact only talked to one other student throughout the whole period. The teacher realised that she could be changing the groupings more often and Josť needed to be shared around the class more and more physically integrated into the group dynamic.

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