From Principles to Practice: Collegial Observation for Teacher Development

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Abstract

Teachers constantly question their own practice. Often, their questions remain unexplored. Collegial observation provides one way to see teaching differently and understand the tensions involved in incorporating new theoretical understandings into practice. Gebhard (1999) argues that conversations preceding and following such observations are critical triggers for teacher development. The questions, conversations, and observations that are the focus of this article occurred within a larger case study with teachers who taught culturally and linguistically diverse classes comprising students who were native English speakers as well as students who spoke English as an additional language. Pairs of secondary content teachers (social studies, science, and mathematics) planned, implemented, and evaluated lesson sequences with a language focus in their content area. Each pair chose one principle from language learning research to guide the design of their sequence. This article investigates the mathematics pair's use of collegial observation to explore ways of incorporating opportunities for student interaction, particularly for English language learners, in their lesson sequence. Findings suggest that such observations and conversations contribute to understanding the tensions in questioning, seeing, reimagining, and reshaping practice. What makes this observation so unusual is that New Zealand secondary schools lack a systemic collegial culture.

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