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Breaking Down Walls: The Power of Teacher Peer Observation

Session 2
Dylan Fenton, Dan Whalen — Collingwood Public Schools

We’ve probably all sat through “dump-and-run” professional development - the kind of PD where a hired consultant comes and talks at the faculty for a day. This strategy promotes the counterproductive idea that PD should be neatly confined to a handful of days a year. It’s also costly and ineffective, and most teachers find it pretty useless.

Creating a peer observation program where staff members can visit other classrooms any day of the school year and utilize colleagues as professional development resources is an easy alternative to traditional PD strategies.

At our school, we created a schedule where teachers could post any lessons they were willing to allow other teachers to observe. Then, if others had a prep period or free time, they could check the schedule and get quick, free professional development by seeing a fellow colleague at work. It gave teachers agency over their own learning and encouraged them to develop a growth mindset about their practice.

But like most school initiatives that buck traditional norms, such a program didn’t come without its challenges. In this conversation we’ll share the lessons we’ve learned from starting the program, the hard work it takes to shift teacher culture, and discuss challenges and best practices for teacher peer observation.

Conversational Practice

The facilitators will share their experience starting a peer observation with attendees and present questions that will guide the conversation with the group. Insights, “light bulb moments,” and best practices from the conversation will be shared with the larger EduCon community.

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