Every year, teachers on EAP pre-sessional courses are observed. As teaching took place online this summer, we were given two options:
- being observed live
- recording our session.
I decided to record my session.
Good reasons for recording
The pre-sessional courses are very intensive and the online format being new, I wasn’t sure I’d have time to choose a lesson, write the lesson plan and send it to the observer in advance, which was a requirement for live observed lessons. Whereas, if we chose recording, it was possible to send the lesson plan together with the recording.
Possibility of tech failure
There’s always the possibility that the technology might fail. The internet connection might get interrupted, the platform might cause problems, the observer might have issues joining at their end…In the worst case, this would mean preparing another detailed lesson plan and spending another couple days worrying about it (see my next point).
This was my tenth year of teaching a pre-sessional course, but although after each of my observed lessons I was told in the feedback that I looked calm and under control, I still feel nervous even after so many years. I’m a very confident teacher, but it simply feels unnatural to have another teacher sitting in the back of the classroom (or just being present in the live online session), observing and taking notes – no matter how nice they are.
Disruptiveness of observation
There’s a kind of intimacy and trust relationship between the students and the teacher. I’m very good at establishing trust and rapport in the classroom. However, when a third person – an outsider – comes in, the dynamics can change. If that person was participating in the lesson, it would be less awkward, and I do try to involve them just a little bit, but generally they’ll just be there in silence and focusing on their observation. In a live online session, they can be less intrusive by keeping their camera and microphone switched off. However, if they join the breakout rooms with just two to four students in each, it is even more disruptive than in the physical class.
Drawback of recorded sessions
If breakout rooms are used, the observer can move between the rooms in a live observed lesson. However, if the lesson is recorded, there isn’t much to watch/observe for the observer because only the main room is recorded and for most of the lesson, when everyone would be working in the breakout rooms, they would only see a black screen and hear nothing, at least this is how it was in MS Teams.
As I was using MS Teams and breakout rooms for the first time, I wanted to have feedback on how effectively I managed the class and the technology, including monitoring the groups, opening the shared Word docs each group was going to work on, etc… I had found a way that I thought was good, but I didn’t know how everyone else was doing it and whether there was a more effective or efficient way of managing the class, so feedback was important.
The tech team told me there was no way to record all the activity within MS Teams. So, I decided to record the main room as usual, and I asked students to record their breakout sessions (which one group did). This was just a backup solution. At the same time, to capture everything I was doing, I recorded my screen with Quicktime and send this to the observer.
Recording the session in this way worked very well. I was much less worried and nervous before and during the ‘observed’ lesson because if anything had gone wrong with the technology or the lesson itself, I could have recorded another session; it also wasn’t disruptive because no third person joined our session. And most of all, the observer was able to see everything I did, and I received good feedback.