It’s amazing how much you can learn from observations. Unfortunately, in my experience, many language schools use observation primarily as an assessment tool rather than for professional development purposes. This post describes a range of simple but useful TEFL observation tasks. They can be used by a Director of Studies, teacher trainers on TEFL or professional development courses, and by teachers observing their peers. Also, some of them could also be used by teachers who record and then analyse their own teaching.

These TEFL observation tasks are probably more appropriate for newer teachers but experienced teachers may find them helpful, especially for identifying their own bad habits. I know that I could certainly benefit from being observed when I train teachers as I’m sure I am just as guilty as anybody of failing to practise what I preach!

These TEFL observation tasks should be adapted to your particular teaching contexts. You might want to use them with video lessons as part of your school’s professional development programme.

Task 1 – The Teacher’s Persona – Imagine you were a student in this class. What impressions would you have of the teacher?

  • How approachable and accessible are they?
  • How supportive are they?
  • How confident and relaxed are they?
  • Do they have any mannerisms that might be annoying for learners?
  • How would you describe their persona?
  • How do they use body language to aid understanding and develop rapport?

Task 2 – The Teacher’s Voice – Consider how the teacher uses their voice (not the actual words) to communicate effectively with the learners.

  • How fast do they speak? How appropriate is that for the level?
  • Are they easy or difficult to hear from the back of the class?
  • What about their intonation? Expressive or monotonous?
  • How do they vary the pace and volume of their voice?
  • How successful are they at modelling word and sentence stress?

Task 3 – Grading Language – Consider how the teacher grades their language to communicate effectively with the learners.

  • Note down any examples of the teacher grading their language.
  • Note down any examples of instances when the teacher fails to grade their language. What was the effect on the learners?
  • Note down any examples of the teacher using ‘artificial’ language.
  • Note down any examples of ‘colloquial’ or ‘idiomatic’ language.
  • Note down any examples of ‘metalanguage’. Do you think the learners understand?

Task 4 –  Interacting with the learners – Consider how the teacher builds rapport, engages, and maintains the interests of the learners.

  • How does the teacher build rapport with the learners and put them at ease? Voice? Body language? Genuine interest in the lives of their learners?
  • Does the teacher interact with all students equally? Does the teacher have any ‘favourite’ learners?
  • How effectively does the teacher praise learners? Any instances of overpraising? What words or phrases do they use when praising? Do they use gestures?
  • How does the teacher use names and nominate learners to develop rapport?

Task 5 – Giving Instructions – Consider how the teacher gives instructions to set up and manage activities.

  • How does the teacher signal the start and end of an activity?
  • How successfully does the teacher grade language when instructing?
  • How does the teacher use gestures to support instructions?
  • How does the teacher check learners have understood instructions? Instruction check questions?
  • How does the teacher demonstrate and model tasks?
  • How do learners indicate they have not understood or need clarification?

Task 6 – Using the Board – Consider how the teacher uses the board to meet the aims of the lesson.

  • How successfully does the teacher use the board to present new language?
  • How organised is the board?
  • How could the teacher improve their board work? What do they do well?
  • How does the teacher use the board to support activities?
  • How often do the learners write on the board?
  • How effectively does the teacher use the board for correction?
  • Ask to look at a learner’s notebook. What did they write down?

Task 7 – Interaction Patterns – Consider how the teacher changes interaction patterns to manage different activities in the lesson.

  • Note down the interaction pattern used for each activity.
  • How often does the teacher change interaction patterns?
  • Why do you think the teacher chose specific interaction patterns for each activity?
  • How did the students respond to changes of interaction patterns?
  • Could the activities have worked with different interaction patterns?

Task 8 – Presenting New Language – Consider how the teacher presents new language (both planned and unplanned).

  • Consider how the teacher presented new language (grammar and lexis). Inductive or deductive approach?
  • How did they cover MFP (meaning, form,pronunciation)?
  • How did the teacher check understanding? Were any CCQs (concept check questions) used? Were they effective?
  • What controlled practice opportunities were learners given to use the new language?
  • What freer practice opportunities were learners given to use the new language?
  • How well was the class able to use the new language? Did the teacher insist or encourage use of the new language?

Task 9 – Eliciting – Consider how the teacher gets the learners to provide information.

  • What techniques did the teacher use to elicit language from the learners?
  • How did the students respond to these eliciting techniques?
  • How many students did the teacher manage to elicit language from?
  • How clear were the contexts used for eliciting?
  • How patient was the teacher when attempting to elicit language?

Task 10 – Error Correction – Consider how the teacher corrects errors.

  • What techniques did the teacher use to correct errors?
  • How does the teacher use self-correction and peer-correction strategies?
  • Does the teacher encourage the learner/s to produce the correct version?
  • How does the teacher use the board to correct errors?
  • Why does the teacher choose not to correct learner errors?

Task 11 – Student utterances in Open Class Activities – Observe how often each learner speaks in the lesson.

Studies show that some students contribute much more than others. Draw a table like the one below and note down how often each learner speaks in open class activities. Consider why some students contribute more than others. Is it because they have a higher level of fluency or competency? Are they nominated by the teacher more often than their classmates? Does the teacher neglect to nominate? Is is because of where the students are sitting (in the teacher’s line of sight)? 

Student Name Number of utterances
Pedro llllllllll
Maria llll
Carlos llllll
Sara lllllllllllll

 

Task 12 – Teacher Student Interactions – Observe how often the teacher interacts with each learner.

Note down how often the teacher interacts with each learner. Is there a relationship between the open and positive body language of the learner and the amount of times the teacher interacts with them? Does the teacher’s positional sense encourage or discourage interaction? Does the teacher interact with the more competent or less competent learners?

Student Name How often teacher interacts with them
Pedro llllllllll
Maria llll
Carlos llllll
Sara lllllllllllll

Task 13 – Focus on just one learner – Observe what an individual learner does during the lesson.

Choose one learner and observe them during the whole lesson (or a substantial part of the lesson).Make notes about what they do, who they interact with, how engaged they appear, how often they speak, the quality of their utterances, their facial expressions and physical gestures, and any other actions they take during the lesson. 

These TEFL observation tasks are designed to help teachers develop their teaching skills. In the post-lesson feedback stage, the issues raised should be discussed rather than delivered by the observer as an assessment.

Over to you. What other TEFL observation tasks have you tried which can help teachers develop their teaching skills and deliver more effective lessons?

 

Teach English in Spain

Teach English in Spain

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