Supervisory Styles: Managing Teacher Assessment and Development
Submitted by: Colin Fry
Date: January 1996
2 The context of my supervisory practice
3 An informal self-evaluation: Developing a focus for study
4 Theoretical Descriptions of Teacher Supervision
5 Post Observation Meetings; Supervision in practice
Appendix 1 & 2
The primary aim of this essay is my personal development as a supervisor . In the process of completing it I hope to gain;
1) A better theoretical understanding of the choices open to supervisors in the role they play.
2) A better understanding about how to combine assessment with the individuals needs of my tutees.
2] The Context of My Supervisory Practice
2.1] In September 1995 I was appointed to the position of Trainer at The Preparatory School, Eastern Mediterranean University (EMU). In the post I am one of five tutors responsible for the education and training of thirty teachers who work at the school. Nineteen teachers are recent graduates and are following a new teacher programme. Eleven teachers are taking the Certificate For Overseas Teachers of English (COTE) which is moderated by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) and the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).
2.2] The COTE course is for teachers of English working outside the UK whose native language is not English. Teachers are required to have completed at least 300 hours of classroom experience and their standard of English should be at least Cambridge First Certificate level. In practice course participants have taught for a minimum of one academic year full time and their standard of English tends to be high due to Cyprus’s past links with Britain. EMU teachers would also have attended in-service training courses. There are several teachers whose first language is English and have spent part of their lives in the UK.
2.3] Part of the course requires attendance at weekly training sessions on Methodology and Language Development. The training sessions last 4 hours and are normally presented by one of the tutors. A further requirement is the completion of 4 written assignments of around 1500 words. The essays are assessed and graded jointly by the 5 tutors according to the COTE grading criteria. This involves assessing not only content but also language.
They also have to have completed;
1) 8 Peer observations - these are structured observations and can include teachers outside the course.
2) 6 Observed Lessons - 4 of which are formally assessed.
The observed lessons and accompanying lesson plans are graded by one or two tutors again in line with COTE criteria. An external Moderator validates the final grading of lessons and checks a representative sample assignments.
2.4] As a trainer I share in the delivery of formal training sessions and I am responsible for 2 tutees. This last aspect of my job would fall within Wallace’s definition (1991 p.107) of a supervisor
"“anyone who has, as a substantial element in his or her professional remit, the duty of monitoring and improving the quality of teaching done by other colleagues in a given education situation".”
More specifically it would come within the scope of what Wallace terms “clinical supervision” being concerned with what happens in the classroom.
Taking the my supervisory responsibilities as a whole they consist of meeting with tutees to;
1) Discuss drafts of assignments
2) Discuss the results of Peer Observations
3) Discuss drafts of lesson plans relating to observed lessons.
4) Observe lessons. Officially, this has 3 stages
a) a pre-observation meeting
b) the observed lesson itself
c) a post observation meeting where the tutee gives their assessment of the lesson they taught and discusses points with the observer. In their post observation statement they are required to select an area of teaching they wish to develop and identify how and when they will do this. The observer’s written comments are given to the tutee after the completion of the meeting and would take into account the tutee’s perception of what had happened in the lesson. The comments would include strengths and weaknesses as well as areas to work on.
Formal grades are not given. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, the grades might change due to external moderation. Secondly, it avoids disputes between observers and tutees that would potentially damage their long term relationship.
In order to share standards with the tutee I produced two checklists (see Appendix 1). The first dealt with lesson plans and the second with methodology assignments. The checklist was derived from COTE sources and discussions with other tutors.
3.0] An informal self-evaluation; Identifying a focus for study
3.1] I have five years experience as an advice worker in an advice bureau and have trained people in interview skills. Therefore I am fairly confident in structuring interviews and listening to people. I am familiar with the interview model described by Edge(1992), and with a range of questioning techniques. Through working in a self access centre I have experience of academic counselling. Having taught a range of levels in similar institutions I think I have some knowledge of the classroom problems and types of students my tutees face. As I continue to teach EFL classes eight hours a week , I am a colleague with my tutees in some meetings and am aware of the institutional constraints they work under. This helps me to be sensitive to “what is feasible”. Although it would be true to say what is feasible for me is not necessarily true for my tutees.
However, one distinction between my current position and previous ones is the long term relationship with the tutee which lasts for an academic year. Also the requirement to not only assist the person I am working with develop but also assess them is new to me.
3.2] On this point there is some disagreement in the literature on supervision whether these functions can be combined. For Duff(1988 p.130) there should be no distinction between observation for training and development and observation for assessment. In his context he sees assessment as formative, feeding into the teacher's development. In contrast, Kennedy(1993 p.163) says the roles of assessor and counsellor cannot realistically be combined. Observation for development is also felt to be separate by Wajnryb (1992 p.2) who states that observation for assessment;
“"is usually value based, directive, externally imposed, and coloured by factors not necessarily related to learning".”
For this reason I have chosen to study what happens in post observation meetings with my COTE tutees and those of other COTE tutors. There are several reasons for choosing this meeting as a focus of study;
1) On grounds of practicality the post observation meeting are scheduled which enables me to find out when they take place.
2) The meeting is one point where the teacher’s work is discussed after assessment has taken place. In other meetings such as working on draft assignments tutors there is no assessment to inform the tutee of.
There are potentially several sources of conflict such as;
1) Role conflict - participants having a different expectations and understandings of they should be doing
2) Goal conflict - differing ideas of what the teacher needs to develop and when. This could happen as a COTE assessment is a global assessment so many issues are raised by one observation.
3) There is also a personal conflict I experience in believing assessment criteria and assessment procedures should be open and public and the need to focus on the teacher's personal development. This is an extension of goal conflict, in that if assessments were given, the focus of the meeting could easily revolve around the " mark" rather than the teacher's teaching. In one sense this essay is about how I can manage this conflict.
These things have to be considered also in relation to maintaining a constructive working relationship.
4] Descriptions of Teacher Supervision
4.1] Gebhard identifies 6 supervisory models. They are;
a) Directive Supervision
b) Alternative Supervision
c) Collaborative Supervision
d) Non-Directive Supervision
e) Creative Supervision
f) Self-Help Explorative Supervision
4.2] Directive supervision has the characteristics of the supervisor telling the teacher what to do and how it should be done. The supervisor then evaluates how well it was done. In this model the supervisor has a “monopoly” on truth being the possessor of the criteria of what makes “good” teaching. Freeman(1990 p.108)states the aim of “directive intervention is to improve the student teacher’s performance according to educator’s criteria”.
Gebhard suggests for some teachers there is a destructive aspect to this relationship. It results in a lowering of self-esteem and puts their decision making abilities in doubt. The status of the supervisor is reinforced and, being prescriptive, decision making is retained by the supervisor. However, he also acknowledges that some teachers doubt their supervisor’s qualifications for the job if they are not given direction.
4.3] In Alternative Supervision the supervisor’s role is to generate options with the teacher who then makes the evaluation as to their effectiveness. The alternatives should be offered non-judgementally by the supervisor. Basing his ideas on Fanselow, Gebhard suggests a technique of teachers doing the opposite of what they normally do. The teacher would then experiment and evaluate how it went. How does this role fit with the supervisor as assessor? This is not specified by Gebhard but it is possible to imagine revising the assessment criteria to include examining how the teacher experiments.
4.4] The idea of supervision as a counselling process moves nearer with Collaborative Supervision. Here teaching as a problem solving process with the supervisor having the intention of working with the teacher and sharing ideas. Contrasting stylised versions of prescriptive (which I identify with Gebhard’s Directive model) and collaborative approaches Wallace (p.110) produces the table below.
The surveys discussed by Wallace lead him to conclude that while prescription has benefits for trainees a more collaborative approach is likely to encourage the long term professional development of the teacher(p.116).
Classic prescriptive approach
Classic collaborative approach
1. Supervisor as authority figure
1. Supervisor as colleague
2. Supervisor as only source of expertise
2. Supervisor and trainee or teacher as co-sharers of expertise
3. Supervisor judges
3. Supervisor understands
4. Supervisor applies a “blueprint” of how lesson ought to be taught
4. Supervisor has no blueprint: accepts lesson in terms of what trainee or teacher is attempting to do
5. Supervisor talks: trainee listens
5. Supervisor considers listening as important as talking
6. Supervisor attempts to preserve authority and mystique
6. Supervisor attempts to help trainee or teacher develop autonomy, through practice in reflection and self-evaluation
4.6] Gebhard’s fourth model is Nondirective Supervision. This is derived from counselling with Freeman(1982) making clear reference to Carl Roger’s work (1961) from which he quotes as saying the counsellor (the supervisor) should ask;
“How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?” (p.32)
Thus the aim is to understand the teacher rather than judge. Decision making and responsibility remain with the teacher who has the freedom to express and clarify ideas. Within this model there is also the possibility of challenging the teacher in terms of the supervisor giving their perspective (see Freeman p.25). However, for some teachers this model may not be appropriate particularly if they expect more direction.
4.7] Creative supervision as described by Gebhard implies the supervisor takes a flexible approach to supervision. The supervisor can combine behaviours from different models and draw from a wide range of resources. Supervision can also be displaced to other sources such as a resource centre.
4.8] The final model Gebhard offers is named Self-Help- explorative supervision. As an extension of creative supervision the supervisor becomes a participant with the teacher in exploring and describing the teaching process.
A more detailed account of a supervisory process is provided by Bowers(1987). He describes the supervisor as a counsellor in the post observation phase. He distinguishes between training as skill giving, prescribed and performed with a group whereas counselling is individually specified and may be remedial in nature.
H.O.R.A.C.E. is the acronym proposed by Bowers to describe the process of teacher counselling. It stands for Hear, Observe, Record, Analyse, Consider and Evaluate. Hearing in this context means listening to the teacher's view of the lesson and Observe refers to entering the teacher's class to watch them teach. Record stand for how what happens in the lesson is transcribed. Bowers recommends that observations be focused, with the following step being to analyse them. This gives us the A in H.O.R.A.C.E.. The next steps are to consider what was possible in the lesson and in this light evaluate. According to Bowers(p.151) evaluation should be selective rather than comprehensive. Teacher's performance can be considered in relation to three areas. They are;
1) In individual terms - the teacher is assessed in terms of what the teacher says they are trying to do.
2) In system terms - the aims and objectives of the institution
3) In professional terms - the teacher is assessed with reference to "the profession" or what is currently considered to be good practice. In my context this is derived from the COTE checklist (see appendix) and discussion with other tutors and moderators.
The supervisor-teacher relationship is considered from another point of view by Elliott and Calderhead(1994)p.172.
Novice grows through
development of new knowledge and images
Novice withdraws from the mentoring relationship with no growth possible
Novice becomes confirmed in pre-existing images of teaching
Novice is not encouraged to consider or reflect on knowledge and images
Thus for the teacher to develop there must be an appropriate combination of challenge and support.
5] Post Observation Meetings
5.1]Preparing to Observe Post Observations Meetings
Having gained the consent of participants that I would be allowed to observe their meetings, I constructed three documents to help me ( See Appendix 2).The first form was a count coding or tally system as suggested in Bowers(p.146) to focus on the supervisor's verbal behaviour and use of documents such as lesson plans. I choose four broad categories to categorise by. They are;
The option of Other was also used.
Examples of each behaviour are;
"Pay closer attention to what the students are saying."
"You need to be aware of how much you use Turkish."
"You felt the lesson went well." (Reflecting the tutee's feeling)
"What is the most important thing for you?"
I class this as non-directive in the context that the tutor does not know the answer to the question and does not require a choice.
"One option would be to get the students to write on an acetate"
"How could you ensure everyone in the group wrote?"
"What would have happened if you had used the questions before listening?"
I classified these questions as collaborative. They were not non-directive in context as the tutor had a reason for asking the question and would supply the answer if the tutee did not. Neither is it purely directive as the student knowledge/vales are explored.
I also used an audio tape to record the sessions to allow me to review and classify statements again if ambiguous. In a more precise study it would have enabled me to time more exactly the talking time of the participants. I decided to observe as well as use a tape recorder as it would enable me to see how documents were used and possibly identify important non-verbal behaviour.
I administered questionnaires after the meeting in order to get additional information about the participants roles and perceptions.
5.2] Post Observation Number 1
This post observation meeting took place in my office between myself and one of my tutees and lasted about 25 minutes. I felt uneasy conducting this interview for several reasons. Firstly, the fact of using a different tape recorder than I had planned unsettled me. Whereas I had wanted to use a machine with a condenser microphone, only one with a more obtrusive external microphone was available. Secondly, having seen the lesson plan prior to the observation I felt I would be repeating myself. I also wondered if I should have discussed things in more detail at the planning stage. The tutee was also nervous because of the microphone and when invited to give her evaluation of her lesson read from her post observation sheet like a speech. However, things did settle down.
According to my tutee the best description of the tutors was colleagues, then educators and assessors with the role of trainer being least suitable. She thought that her main role in the meeting was to get the evaluation and analyse the lesson. The least important aspect of the meeting was to identify areas to develop. The best description of the meeting for her was discussing alternatives. In stating how she benefited from the meeting she said she felt comfortable and understood her weak points. She thought it would help her prepare better lesson plans.
During the meeting I referred to the tutee’s lesson plan to compare what happened with what was planned. I used comments I added to my observation notes to discuss each stage of the lesson. The post observation focused on communicative use of language and providing a context for grammar practice which were weak areas according to COTE criteria. I used communicative criteria which I had discussed with the tutee previously.
According to my count coding I used 19 directive /evaluative statements, 9 non-directive statements, 1 alternative statement and 2 collaborative statements.
I was unhappy about the use of so many directive/evaluative statements for several reasons. Generally, it places the tutee in the position of having to justify their actions or accepting the tutor’s comments usually with a short response. I did not feel it would be constructive for the long term relationship between me and my tutee. Another part of the meeting I wished to develop is moving the tutee beyond “identifying weak points” to getting the tutee to be more specific in how, what and when she plans to do something about these areas.
Comments from the tutee included the wish for more directive guidance at the lesson planning stage prior to the observation.
5.3] Post Observation Number 2
In this observation there was gap between how the participants saw the role of the tutor. The tutee thought the best description of the COTE tutors was as assessors, whereas as the tutor saw this as least important and rated the colleague role most highly. They both ranked the educator and trainer roles in third and second place respectively.
The tutee didn't feel it was important to explain how the lesson went but the tutor felt it was most important to get the tutee's view of the lesson. They agreed on the ranking of analysing the lesson which they rated as second least important. The tutee felt it was most important to get the tutor's evaluation and identify areas to develop.
The tutor felt the meeting was directive although the tutee thought alternatives were also included.
The comment by the tutee about the meeting was that she felt discouraged. She had lost confidence and felt the basis of one hour's teaching was artificial. The tutor was also unhappy about the post observation meeting and stated that she would like to have conducted the meeting in a different manner. She had decided to be directive as the tutee had a highly positive view of the lesson which the tutor felt needed to be challenged. The tutor was also unhappy about the amount of time she spoke in the meetings generally with her tutees.
The tutor did not make any explicit reference to COTE criteria and referred to her observation notes which she did not seem to share with the tutee. According to my count coding there were 25 directive/evaluative questions or statements, 2 non-directive and accepting statements with 2 use of alternatives given non-judgementally. The tutor also make a contract with the tutee to review materials for communicative content at an agreed date.
Due to the tutor’s unhappiness with the meeting, we discussed it afterwards. I suggested she make her comments though the form of open questions to explore the tutee's ideas. The tutor did this and reported there was an increase in teacher talking time.
5.4] Post Observation Meeting Number 3
I taped the post observation meeting with my second tutee which took place in my shared office. After listening to Post Observation 1 I decided to change my technique and use my record of the lesson observed to pose open questions rather than make comments. For example;
"What would latecomers have done?"
"How could you ensure everyone in the group wrote?"
My tutee stated that the most important role of the tutor was as an educator, followed by assessor , colleague and finally trainer. Most importantly, for the tutee was to analyse the lesson with the tutor, identify areas to develop and plan how to do it. Explaining how the lesson went and the tutor’s evaluation were less important. She thought the best description of the meeting included non-directive, alternative and collaborative elements.
My categorisation showed 13 directive responses, 10 collaborative responses, 5 non-directive responses and 3 alternative responses. By posing questions I had increased the tutee’s talking time and enabled her to come up with her own answers. I felt the meeting was also more relaxed in atmosphere. On the tape there were pauses which indicated thinking by the tutee.
5.5] Post Observation Meeting Number 4
This interview took place in the tutor’s office and lasted approximately twenty minutes. Both participants rated the role of the tutor as educator and assessor highly. Despite this there was no explicit reference to COTE assessment criteria in the meeting. Both participants also rated the tutor’s training role less highly and the tutee rated the description of the tutor as colleague as the least applicable.
Analysing the lesson was ranked as the most important task in the meeting by both the tutor and tutee. For the tutee receiving the tutor’s evaluation was next in importance whereas the tutor thought planning how the tutee developed was very important. Both saw the meeting as collaborative and the tutor thought there were non-directive elements to it. From my observation I identified 18 directive responses, 3 non-directive responses and 24 collaborative responses. The directive responses were often in the form of positive feedback. Evaluations of a critical nature tended to be descriptive statements. The tutor used her observation notes to guide the discussion. She checked her understanding of the lesson by recounting it to the tutee who then elaborated on it and was invited to comment on it. Having established some areas were problematic the tutor then asked “What would do if you taught this lesson again?”. This enabled the tutee to demonstrate what she knew and encouraged her to reflect.
5.6] Post Observation Meeting Number 5
To increase the number of post observation meetings and tutors I observed I included an interview with a new teacher not on the COTE course.
The tutor in this observation combines his role of tutor with that of manager in the school which reinforces his status as tutor. The teacher whose lesson was observed was a recent graduate with ten weeks teaching experience. During that time he would have received some training in basic teaching skills. The meeting took place in the tutor’s office which is normally a busy place due to his managerial role. However, due to my presence and the tape recorder the door was locked.
Both participants saw the role of the tutor as an educator as being most important However, the tutor felt it was more important to be a colleague than a trainer. This contrasts with the teacher who rated the trainer aspect as very important and gave least importance to the colleague role. Neither rated assessment as important .
The interview discussed the context of a reading lesson with the tutor initiating and attempting to close the session. During the meeting the tutor explored the teacher’s view of reading, vocabulary teaching and grouping. Areas were identified by the tutor that the teacher needed to work on. The tutor attempted to close the interview with “Well, that’s it.” to which the tutee made a specific request for the tutor’s opinion about his “weak points”. The tutor responded by summarising the interview and promising written comments.
My record of this interview was that it combined directive and collaborative aspects. Both participants thought it contained directive elements. But while the tutee thought it was best described as directive the tutor felt there were collaborative and alternatives elements. My view of the alternatives given is that they were given non-judgmentally but were directive.
Listening to the tape again it was noticeable that the directive/ evaluative responses were;
1) Mainly in the form of positive feedback.
2) Shorter in length than the collaborative responses. For example,
“It didn’t show. Well done.”
“It worked fine. Really.”
“That worked excellently.”
3) Comments that could be construed as negative or threatening were descriptive which enabled the tutee to evaluate or explain further.
“Your face seemed very serious.”
From the questionnaire the tutor revealed his own agenda of wishing to encourage the teacher who had been observed for the first time. Generally there was broad agreement between the participants about the stages of the meeting and the results of the meeting.
6.1] As stated in 3.2] part of the motivation for the essay was a desire felt that assessment procedures and assessment criteria open. In order to adopt a collaborative approach as recommended by Wallace and as a personal preference I feel these must be open to the tutee. Then the tutor and the tutee can work together as tutee adopts these standards as their goals and exercises a degree of ownership of these standards.
6.2] The survey of the Post Observation Meetings revealed the focus of the meeting was the teacher's lesson. It was assessed and analysed with regard to the teacher's intention and with regard to "professional standards". Directive feedback of a comprehensive nature can be demoralising and is not suitable for this meeting. In order for the assessment to be useful, it needs to be focused.
6.3] I think the solution to my dilemma is to split knowledge of the assessment criteria from the Post Observation Meeting. The adoption of the assessment criteria as their standard of performance by the tutee must be a long term goal or a end of course behaviour, whereas analysis of particular lessons and forming development plans should be short term ones. As part of this process I scheduled a separate meeting with my tutees to discuss their idea of a good lesson and generated a checklist with which they can assess their lesson plans. I plan to revise the early checklists with the COTE group working as a whole to produce their own assessment criteria.
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