Early Career Teachers' Experiences of Classroom Observation: A Case Study

Love, Samantha Mildred (2020). Early Career Teachers' Experiences of Classroom Observation: A Case Study. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012118

Abstract

Early career teachers (ECTs) undergo numerous observations of their teaching for various purposes, some of which can be perceived as challenging. Published research exists that examines the process of observation, however, there is little research that uses the voice of ECTs to explore how they experience observation.

Using an inductive case study approach, this study privileged the voice of the participants to explain their perceptions of how observation challenged both their identity and agency. Eleven ECTs in an 11-16 secondary school in the North East of England participated in the study. Data was gathered using semi-structured one-to-one and paired interviews using vignettes. Various aspects of observation were explored during both types of interview, including the purpose of and the method used for observation and how feedback on performance was given.

Thematic analysis of the data identified key themes related to structure and agency. Utilising a theoretical framework based on Giddens’ Structuration theory (1986), three typologies of observation experience emerged: Absent, Brutal and Collegial. The experiences were characterised as ‘critical incidents’ that influenced ECTs’ perceptions of observation impacting, either positively or negatively, upon their identity, agency and practice.

Analysis highlighted the importance of relationships and trust between the observer and the observed. When a collegial approach to observation and feedback was adopted by all parties, the experience was perceived to enhance ECT agency and identity. Absent and Brutal experiences were considered to be restrictive of agency, rendering ECTs’ perceptions of the process as un-developmental. The contributions from this research about ECTs’ experiences of observation will be valuable to schools, providers of Initial Teacher Training, and mentors of ECTs. One recommendation is that the different typologies of observation could be used to help inform future training of teachers, mentors and those who observe.

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