Observations and conferences, along with other interactive activities, are perceived by both beginning teachers and mentors to be one of the most effective practices for the induction of new teachers into the profession.1
Several types of observations can be helpful to
- Observations of the beginning teacher by the mentor
- Observation of the mentor by the beginning teacher (see Demonstration
- Observation of another experienced teacher by the beginning teacher and
the mentor (see Demonstration Lesson)
- Observation of the beginning teacher by
another beginning teacher
OSPI’s Beginning Educator Support Team (TAP) provides for funds for release time so that beginning teachers and mentors can observe each other and other teachers.
Included here are some guidelines for observations of each type. This
information is not intended as a substitute for formal training in an
observation model. If your district does not offer training for mentors, ask
about training at your Educational Service District (ESD). Local colleges or
universities may also provide classes in clinical supervision, peer coaching, or
cognitive coaching. If there are several mentors in your district, the TAP
coordinator may consider bringing in a trainer on this topic. You may also
contact the TAP coordinator at OSPI for assistance.
General Observation Format
A formal observation consists of three parts:
- Pre-Observation Conference
- Post-Observation Conference
Following are suggestions for each part. For additional information about
“Planning Conversations” (pre-observation) and “Reflecting Conversations”
(post-observation), please see the text, Mentoring Matters, by Laura Lipton and
Bruce Wellman (Miravia, 2001).
I. Pre-Observation Conference (Planning Conversation)
(Allow 30 minutes.)
Set dates and times for the observation and post-observation conference.
- Observation - teaching new material, 20-40 minutes (or other
appropriate duration for focus); determine where the observer is to sit in
the class and whether or not she or he will be introduced
- Post-conference , schedule 45 minutes; do as soon as possible after
observation, but be sure to allow yourself time to plan the conference
Briefly have the mentee describe the lesson goal(s) and strategies, and the
anticipated evidence of success (evidence of student learning).
Decide together on one or two skills that the observer will watch for in the
lesson and what kind of data will be recorded. Will you focus on teacher or
Ask the mentee: What do you want to be most aware of as you begin this lesson?
- Sit in the prearranged spot and try to be invisible.
- Observer should refrain from eye contact with the students; and
- Focus on teacher, unless she or he is very nervous. In that case, look
down once the classroom is settled, collect the agreed-upon data or take
verbatim notes on the skills discussed and/or on the whole lesson. If
verbatim notes, record the teacher’s exact words. Don’t rely on memory or
III. Preparing for the Post-Observation Conference
Look for examples in your notes of the skills and/or focus areas discussed during the pre-observation conference. Remember that you will leave these notes with the teacher.
If there was something important that you think did not go well, to make sure it was substance and not style, ask yourself the following questions: Would I have done it this way?
- If no, then, were students learning? (What is the evidence?)
- If students were learning, then it’s an issue of different styles, not
Do not comment.
- If there is little or no evidence of student learning, then the
observer/mentor should intercede and plan to consult in this focus area. The
question then becomes when to intercede. Timing of the feedback is critical
IV. Post-Observation Conference (Reflecting Conversation)
Allow teacher to discuss lesson:
As you think about the time that I observed today, what are some of your
If focus skill was successfully used, coach this and then go on to debrief/coach another successful skill OR consult on a skill that needs refining.
If focus skill was unsuccessfully demonstrated, choose a skill to discuss that the teacher used successfully, and THEN consult/collaborate with the teacher on the focus skill,
Provide evidence from your notes with specific examples to support major
points of the conversation. If the evidence/data is positive, place it between
you and your mentee. If the evidence/data is negative, place it to the side of
the two of you as a third point.
Wrap up the conference by asking for new connections, goals, implications for future practice (may lead to Planning Conversation)
Always begin and end in the “coaching” mode of the coaching-collaborating-consulting continuum.
Remember to maintain complete confidentiality concerning observations and conferences with the new teacher or ESA. This is a legal requirement for mentors per RCW 28A.415.250.
1. Katherine Perez, Carole Swain, and Carolyn S. Hartsough, “An Analysis of
Practices Used to Support New Teachers,” Teacher Education Quarterly, (Spring