How to make the most of… Visiting Lecturer Assessments

I’m shamelessly stealing @krivett1 series of posts  How to make the most of ….  and doing a series on topics relevant to student teachers. My first will be on Visiting Lecturer Assessments if only because I’ve just finished my last observations and the experience is fresh in my head.

So without further ado, Visiting Lecturers. They come to watch you teach a session and write a report about it. Of course the whole is more than the sum of its parts so here are my tips:

1. It’s not an observation it is assessment for learning

These assessments have the potential to make or break your teaching career so it is little wonder student teachers approach these observations as a high-stakes test of teaching rather than assessment for learning. What helped me was to start thinking about what I would want my students to do if they were in the same position. I’d want them to show me  what they know so that I can help them. Another words go in with the attitude that you are here to learn.

2. Your lecturers aren’t looking the perfect lesson

You know that old Hollywood adage about never working with animal and children? The reason they say that is that are putting on a show. Your lesson shouldn’t be a show but a snapshot of your teaching. Working with children means there will always be an element of the unpredictable. During one of my observations the classroom door literally came off the hinges while at another some students were not keeping hands to themselves resulting in some tears being shed.  In both cases it wasn’t the incident itself that I was being assessed on but that I quickly responded and bought the class back on track. What your lecturer is looking for is how you respond to those challenges in classroom management not that things go wrong.

3. Teach like your lecturer isn’t there

For my first assessment I didn’t even introduce the lecturer because I had forgotten she was in the room by the time the year 7s came in. Since the students didn’t feel the need comment on the strange person at the back of the room I just carried on. For the littlies it was best to address the elephant in the room, the new person, and then go about my business.  The lecturers aren’t there to see me at my best, just me at my normal.

4. Your lecturers want you to succeed

I get it more than anyone, you want your gold stars from your lesson observation. However basking in your awesomeness with your lecturer will only get you so far in this learning to be a teacher gig. Taking criticism that you might feel unwarranted and turning it around is where the real learning  happens. I took some criticism from one assessment (that I needed to praise students more) which might on the surface seem a bit nit picky and turned it into a strength for the next assessment 2 weeks later. What was the best bit? Getting positive feedback on my praise of students made me feel good about putting in the effort  into this area so now I know important praise is!   So if your lecturer gives you some negative feedback on your observation, don’t get defensive or blame external factors (the students, the lecturer just doesn’t get it, I was feeling sick that day etc.). Start thinking about how you will turn your criticism into a strength by the next visit.

5. Sunlight is the best disinfectant

If you are feeling nervous, then name it. There’s no point in pretending that you are not nervous and then spending the rest of your lesson trying to cover up your nervousness.  So talk about the elephant in the room, it might  make it seem far less big and scary.

6. Be prepared to justify your decisions

What turned my last Visiting Lecturer assessment from a good one into a great one was that I could justify everything I did in the class. From the warm up to why I was using little teddies as counters (or indeed the counters themselves) I knew why I was doing things as much as what I was doing.

7. Teach to your lecturer’s speciality (from a course mate)

If at all possible try and teach the subject that you know your lecturer is teaching so you can get awesome feedback. Two of my Visiting Lecturers were maths lecturers so I taught maths. As a result I got very content-specific feedback that wouldn’t have happened if I was teacher reading or science.

What advice would you give students who are about to have their first Visiting Lecturer Assessments?

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