FEATURE

Toolkit for "Two Heads are Better Than One"

This toolkit provides five tools to help focus mentors’ and instructional coaches’ observations on the dynamics that help create equitable classrooms.

Introduction

Culturally proficient coaching and mentoring support reflection on issues of equity and diversity that may not be addressed elsewhere in professional development. Classroom observations are a critical tool in equity work. This toolkit for "Two Heads Are Better Than One" provides five tools to help focus observations on the explicit and not-so-explicit dynamics that create equitable classrooms.

 

Essential Questions

  1. How can classroom observations be done through an equity lens?
  2. How can peer observations provide feedback that is non-evaluative and useful in creating equitable classrooms?

 

Procedure

Five Tools to Observe for Equity”—a set of classroom observation tools detailed below—can be used by a range of educators in a variety of situations. Co-teachers and teacher peers may use them to help each other better engage specific students or groups of students. Administrators and counselors might use these tools to gather data as they lead a school-wide focus on equity. When used by mentors and instructional coaches, these tools can be shared in pre- and post-observation meetings with teachers.

 

Tracking Teacher's Tone

This tool has the observer track the type of feedback the teacher gives to students. It asks if the words and tone used are positive or negative. Is the teacher praising or criticizing students?

  1. Use the columns to write direct quotes or note exact words used by the teacher. When possible, add the name of the student(s) to whom the teacher is speaking.
  2. When the observation is complete, make a copy for yourself and give one to the observed teacher.
  3. Schedule a post-observation meeting in a location that is comfortable for the observed teacher. Allow enough time for the teacher to review the data you recorded on the tool. Meeting within one week of the observation is ideal—that way, your memory is fresh. Ensure there is enough time during the post-observation meeting for debrief and discussion.
  4. Complete the post-observation reflection questions together. Focus the majority of your debrief on the question: “Were any patterns observed specific to gender, ethnicity, race, language, high-achieving students, low-achieving students?”
  5. Conclude the post-observation meeting by listening to the teacher. Ask the teacher to identify one takeaway from the feedback provided.

 

Student Engagement: On Task, Off Task?

This tool has the observer track student engagement throughout the lesson. How many students are on task? Does engagement wane throughout the lesson? Are individual students or groups of students generally engaged or disengaged? What are the consequences of engaging only some students?

  1. Use the columns to track the number of students on task versus the number of students off task at select moments throughout the lesson.
  2. Whenever possible, jot down student names.
  3. When the observation is complete, make a copy for yourself and for the observed teacher.
  4. Schedule a post-observation meeting in a location that is comfortable for the observed teacher. Allow enough time for the teacher to review the data you recorded on the tool. Meeting within one week of the observation is ideal—that way your memory is fresh. Ensure there is enough time during the post-observation meeting for debrief and discussion.
  5. Complete the post-observation reflection questions together. Focus the majority of your debrief on the questions: “What might the data observed mean?” “What does it tell me about equity?”
  6. Conclude the post-observation meeting by listening to the teacher. Ask the teacher to identify one takeaway from the feedback provided.

 

Engaging Multiple Learning Styles

This tool has the observer record specific instructional strategies or activities that meet different learning styles. How are visual, auditory, kinesthetic and verbal learners being engaged? Can the classroom be more equitable by celebrating all learning styles?

  1. Use the graphic organizer to record your notes.
  2. Record specific instructional strategies or activities in the quadrant of the circle that corresponds with each learning style.
  3. When the observation is complete, make a copy for yourself and for the observed teacher.
  4. Schedule a post-observation meeting in a location that is comfortable for the observed teacher. Allow enough time for the teacher to review the data you recorded on the tool. Meeting within one week of the observation is ideal—that way your memory is fresh. Ensure there is enough time during the post-observation meeting for debrief and discussion.
  5. Complete the post-observation reflection questions together. Focus the majority of your debrief on the question: “What choices can I make moving forward to increase equity by celebrating all learners?”
  6. Conclude the post-observation meeting by listening to the teacher. Ask the teacher to identify one takeaway from the feedback provided.

 

Classroom Snapshot

This very general tool can be adapted for a number of purposes. It may be most useful in initial observations before deciding on a focus.  

  1. Use the different parts of the graphic organizer to record your observations. Don’t analyze or interpret what you see, hear and observe.
  2. Jot down as much as you can during your snapshot. Typically, 15 minutes is enough time. This is truly a “fly on the wall” observation. Take in the sounds, sights and movements.
  3. Reflect on what you observed and recorded after you leave the classroom. Try and arrive at one to three “equity takeaways” that you can share with the observed teacher. Here are a few examples: “Student work is displayed on the walls.” “Students participate in writing, in small groups and as a whole class.” “The seating arrangement allows for the teacher to be a facilitator.”
  4. List the takeaways.
  5. Make a copy for yourself and for the observed teacher.
  6. Schedule a post-observation meeting in a location that is comfortable for the observed teacher. Allow enough time for the teacher to review the data you recorded on the tool. Meeting within one week of the observation is ideal—that way your memory is fresh. Ensure there is enough time during the post-observation meeting for debrief and discussion.
  7. Share the snapshot with the observed teacher. Allow the teacher to react and reflect. Offer your equity takeaways and have a discussion about them.

 

Classroom Seating Chart

This tool is a commonly used method in classroom observations. It can be used to correlate physical location and proximity with teacher-student relationships. Which students are getting the most and the best from the teacher?

  1. Prior to the lesson, or immediately upon entering the classroom, sketch out the seating arrangement. Use “X” to mark where students are seated. Include their names or initials. You may also want to jot down the locations of the door, teacher’s desk, board and windows.
  2. Use the “O” and arrows to track the teacher’s movement throughout the lesson. How often does the teacher move? Where is he or she going? Does the teacher tend to stand near certain students?
  3. Use the check mark and other symbols to note the kind and frequency of attention given to individual students.
  4. When the observation is complete, make a copy for yourself and for the observed teacher.
  5. Schedule a post-observation meeting in a location that is comfortable for the observed teacher. Allow enough time for the teacher to review the data you recorded on the tool. Meeting within one week of the observation is ideal—that way your memory is fresh. Ensure there is enough time during the post-observation meeting for debrief and discussion.
  6. Complete the post-observation reflection questions together. Focus the majority of your debrief on the questions: “What patterns or trends were observed in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, language, etc.?” “What considerations does this question raise about my instruction?”
  7. Conclude the post-observation meeting by listening to the teacher. Ask the teacher to identify one takeaway from the feedback provided.