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Pre-Observation Meeting in Teacher Coaching

Instructor: Clio Stearns
Meeting with teachers before you conduct observations in their classes will help you determine the focus and purpose of the observation. This lesson gives you some ideas about what matters in a pre-observation meeting.

The Pre-Observation Meeting

Though Lara has been teaching at Hillborough school for more than 10 years, she is new to her role as a teacher leader, someone who provides instructional coaching and professional development to colleagues.

One of Lara's new tasks is to conduct observations in her colleagues' classes and provide them with feedback on their instruction. Lara knows that teachers at Hillborough take these observations seriously; not only do they potentially provide important ideas about how to meet the needs of learners, but reports on these observations also go into teachers' professional files.

Lara quickly realizes that before she conducts observations, she should have a pre-observation meeting with the teacher she is going to observe. This meeting takes place one day to one week prior to the observation and allows the teacher and Lara to get on the same page about how the observation will go.

Establish Context

The first thing Lara hopes to do in each pre-observation meeting is establish some context for the lesson she is going to observe. In other words, why is the teacher doing this lesson? What has come before it, and what will come after? What are some of the unique qualities of the particular class that have helped the teacher determine instructional strategies?

As Lara asks questions to prompt teachers to talk about their context, she takes notes and tries to envision the class she is going to watch. Lara finds that establishing context is a good opportunity for the teacher to get comfortable with her because teachers know their context really well and get to showcase their expertise. Further, understanding the context will help Lara situate herself as an observer because she will understand what the students already know and where they are going to go after this lesson.

Review the Plan

Then, Lara gets at the details of the lesson she is going to observe. She asks to see a teacher's written lesson plan, and she usually wants to discuss the following categories:

  • Objectives — Lara wants to know exactly what the teacher hopes to accomplish over the course of the lesson. She expects the teacher to be able to articulate clearly what students will know or be able to do by the end of the lesson. She also asks the teacher to show her how the lesson correlates with state standards.
  • Expectations — Lara asks for any specific expectations the teacher has of students over the course of the lesson. This will help her evaluate classroom management and also make sense of behaviors she is not accustomed to seeing.
  • Instructional Methods — Lara wants the teacher to explain what teaching strategies he or she is planning to use, and why. Here, Lara focuses on what the teacher is doing to meet the needs of diverse learners, and she hopes to understand the progression of the lesson clearly.
  • Assessment — Finally, Lara wants to know how the teacher will assess or evaluate the lesson's success at meeting the objectives. She emphasizes that this can be informal but that there should be some plan for evaluation.

Pinpoint Questions

Sometimes, Lara's observations are more directed than at other times, such as when a teacher is struggling with a particular student or subsection of the curriculum. Especially in cases like these, Lara uses the pre-observation meeting to determine what questions the teacher would like her to focus on during the observation.

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