Working With Interns: Co-Observations
Mentor teachers might wonder why the field instructor and intern would take notes in the back of class and then go off to discuss them. Mentor teachers might even wonder what field instructors and interns whisper to each other briefly as they watch class activity. By tradition, "evaluation” is a likely reason for such activity. That is not a pleasant association for the mentor teacher, and not an accurate description of what the intern and field instructor intend to be doing. So, it is important to let the mentor teachers know, in advance, what will be going on.
Ethical Considerations for Co-ObservatonsFor the case of co-observation by interns and field instructors, field instructors should communicate to the mentor teachers, in advance, about what we hope to achieve by co-observation. We will go about it in a manner that carefully respects the mentor teacher and the teacher's students. These principles might be particularly important to the mentor teacher:
1. Establish ethical ground rules. Early in the course, establish and maintain ethical ground rules for all discussion, oral or written, of activity in mentor teachers' classrooms.
2. Explore [interns'] ideas about learning to teach.... Their ideas can make large differences in the soundness and fairness of their thinking about activity in mentor teachers' classrooms.
3. Always start with careful descriptions. Require that the first step of all such discussions is to produce careful, specific, dispassionate descriptions of the activity in mentor teachers' classrooms.
4. Consider alternative hypotheses. Consistently require teacher candidates or interns to construct and compare alternative hypotheses about the activity they have described.
5. Then proceed to assessments. If the preceding principles have been well honored, it is then reasonable to attempt to make assessments. These should be clearly based in careful description, carefully reasoned, and generous to the persons—teachers and students--who produced the activity being discussed.
6. Recall the network of duties. Throughout, keep in mind the program's duties to school pupils, to their teachers as colleagues in teacher preparation, to the teachers' schools, and to the teacher candidates or interns involved.
Remember that there is no way to learn from observing and participating in classroom activity without assessing practices and their consequences. But that is not the same as evaluating persons and their competence.
Adapted from 'Grades and Grading" by Tom Bird, AY 2005-2006