Chapter 3: Determining the level of support needed by the new professional

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Section 5. Observation

Observation is one of those activities that seems like it should be easy but isn't. To most of us, observation usually means evaluation. We generally do not think of observation as a tool that can help us grow professionally but as an activity that must be endured in order to keep one's job.

Observation between a mentor and a new professional is not done for evaluation. The mentor's role is not to be an evaluator or assessor. And observation is not just a mentor observing the new professional but also includes the new professional observing the mentor or some other experienced professional.

Observation is probably best in real time but that just may not be possible for some mentor-new professional pairs. Observation can also occur through an exchange of videotape.

Given some structure and some ground rules, observation can be a powerful teaching and learning tool.

  • It should be clear that the mentor's observation is not being used to evaluate the new professional.
  • Ideally, both parties should be comfortable with each other. Observing a new professional's lesson might not a good idea for very early in the relationship.
  • It is important to keep observations focused on what was observed, not what is inferred. Written evidence is a mirror of what happened during the lesson.
  • Talk about the purpose of the lesson before hand. For example, what IEP goals are being addressed, what has built up to this particular lesson and what will build upon this lesson in the future.
  • If you are being observed and have some particular aspect(s) of the lesson you want the new professional to pay attention to, say so up front.
  • If you are observing, you may want to ask the new professional if there is anything in particular they want you to attend to.
  • Observations should include went well as much or more than what didn't.

Based on what you saw, you will determine what kind of support the protégé needs. Is it consulting? Coaching? Collaboration? In what proportion?

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