Inclusive Practice: Conducting Observations
Observations and high-quality feedback play an important role in fostering reflective educator practice, improving instruction, and supporting evaluators as instructional leaders. Observations and targeted feedback can contribute to an objective picture of educator practice over time, help to identify specific areas for professional growth, and stimulate ongoing communication concerning teaching and learning. Within the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Framework, unannounced and announced observations are used as one of multiple sources of evidence. Coupled with actionable and timely feedback, observations are a key driver for improvement in the evaluation process.
General Strategies and Suggestions for Observations
The core structure of observations in the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Framework is based on the following components:
Observations should be frequent, focused on an educator's goal areas, and followed by brief, actionable, targeted feedback.
Short, unannounced observations, followed by targeted, actionable feedback, are essential to improving instructional practice. Through short, unannounced visits, more samples of practice can be collected, and many more powerful conversations about teaching and learning can take place throughout the year.
Observations can occur outside the classroom.
Observations are not limited to classroom instruction but may take place in a variety of settings, such as team meetings, school-based community events, individualized learning environments, and leadership forums. Observations outside the classroom may reveal insight into an educator's engagement with families and the community, role in the school community, collaboration with colleagues, and skills in collaboration, professionalism, and leadership.
Observations in Inclusive Settings
Although the Standards of Effective Teaching Practice are shared across all educators, observed practices may look different for educators working in different settings. For educators who support diverse learners, observations that target principles of accessible instruction and positive behavior supports will lead to meaningful and actionable feedback. Classroom practices that might be observed in an inclusive setting with positive behavior supports include the following:
Educators present information in multiple ways. Students may have options for the perception of information, for simplified or clarified language, for mathematical expressions and symbols, and for how students comprehend information.
Students demonstrate their knowledge in multiple ways. Students may have options for how they perform physical tasks, for how they communicate their understanding to the educator and each other, and for how they plan and manage tasks.
Student engagement is not one-size-fits-all. Educators provide options that optimize individual choice and autonomy, relevance, and authenticity. Students demonstrate sustained effort and persistence and have strategies for managing their own work.
The learning environment is safe and supportive. Classroom culture reflects positive social-emotional supports. Some students may require individualized behavior plans and supports to address their individual needs.
The following resource tools provide concrete "look fors" for observations of educators in those observations.
Inclusive Practice Tool 4a: What to Look For-Observations
The What to Look For Observations tool provides guidance for educators and evaluators when conducting observations and self-assessments in inclusive instructional settings. The observation tool provides examples of educator behaviors, student behaviors, and environmental conditions in an effective inclusive classroom. Because an educator's role in an inclusive setting can vary depending on the needs of diverse learners, this tool references multiple instructional and behavioral management strategies but should not be considered a comprehensive list. The tool allows the observer to see how the educator has recognized and addressed differences through effective and flexible instructional practices aligned with the principles of accessible instruction and positive behavior supports.
Inclusive Practice Tool 4b: What to Look For-Observation Feedback
The What to Look For Observation Feedback form can be used in conjunction with the tool, What to Look For-Observations, to provide educators in inclusive instructional settings targeted feedback based on observations. This tool provides example prompts that evaluators can use with educators based on what the evaluators observe in the instructional setting, including prompts related to educator behaviors, student behaviors, and environmental conditions. By using this feedback tool, educators and evaluators will be able to have more targeted conversations aligned with the principles of accessible instruction and positive behavior supports.