What are the benefits to be derived from the observation of lessons? What approaches might you use and why? What methodological issues might you encounter?

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Introduction

Wragg (2002:132) argues that, "new teachers' professional development can be informed by regular and discerning observation of lessons". What are the benefits to be derived from the observation of lessons? What approaches might you use and why? What methodological issues might you encounter? It has been argued over the last two decades that observations are vital to professional educators, as they can help teachers: "understand and act upon all the complexities in the classroom" (Macintyre, 2000). As observations are believed to be valuable; it is important that educators are aware of the different observation approaches and how they can use them. Observation is a vital skill for all professional educators to master as it can help them to develop as teachers and it can ensure that their students are getting the best possible education in their learning environment. As Linda Hargreaves says: "classroom observation is becoming an essential profession skill in the teacher's repertoire." (Hargreaves, 2002). There are two means of observation: qualitative and quantitative. They are both extremely useful in certain situations of monitoring the lessons, and to ensure that the teacher keeps developing; however it is to be believed that using both methods of observation together can be of the most use as it gives a full picture of the learning environment in lessons.

Middle

On the other hand, no matter what quantitative method is used to observe the learning and teaching in classrooms; the overall focus should be on how educators can use it to help them "take increased responsibility for their actions and create a more...dynamic environment in which teaching and learning can occur." (Hopkins, 1993). Another method of observation which works well in the classroom is that of qualitative observation. Alternatively the qualitative method is the opposite of the quantitative method. Qualitative data is descriptive and involves characteristics that can't usually be counted. This method of observation is more detailed and tells us more about the actual interactions in the classroom between pupils. Examples of the qualitative method are, long hand continuous accounts within the classroom, open ended questionnaires, unstructured interviews, structured interviews and categorical recording. The advantage of using this method is that, it takes account for the complexity of group behaviours. Also it provides context for pupils' behaviour. Qualitative research expands the range of knowledge and understanding of the world beyond the researchers themselves. It often helps educators see why something is the way it is, rather than just presenting a fact. For instance, a quantitative study may find that students who are taught composition using a process method receive higher grades on papers than students taught using a qualitative method.

Conclusion

Classroom observation focus on the teaching strategies being used, the role played by pupils in the lessons and any relationships there appears to be between what pupils write under examination conditions and what happens in class. It allows the opportunity for self-improvement and therefore benefits the children as the more beneficial methods of teaching will be identified. It is also useful for the teacher to be able to monitor the progress of individuals and notice things that would normally be overlooked. Referencing: Hargreaves, L. (2002), Seeing Clearly: Observation in the Primary Classroom in Moyles, J. and Robinson, G., (2002), Beginning Teaching: Beginning Learning in Primary Education, 2nd edition, Buckingham: Open University Press. Hopkins, D (1993) A Teacher's Guide to Classroom Research (2nd Edition) Buckingham: Open University Press. Kumar, R (1996) Research Methodology: SAGE publications LTD, London. Macintyre, C (2000) The Art if Action Research in the Classroom. UK: David Fulton Publishers. Montgomery, D. (2002) Helping teachers Develop through Classroom Observation (2nd Edition, London: David Fulton Publishers. MUIJS, D (2004) Doing Quantitative Research in Education with SPSS. London: SAGE Publications Ltd. SCOTTISH_EXECUTIVE (2004) a Curriculum for Excellence - The Curriculum Review Group: Purposes and Principles for the Curriculum 3-18. IN DEPARTMENT, S. E. E. (Ed.) Edinburgh, The Scottish Executive. Simpson, M and Tuson, J (1995) Using Observations in Small-Scale Research: A Beginner's Guide. UK: SCRE (The Scottish Council for Research in Education. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1

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