Teaching observations are perfectly normal and ensure children are receiving the best possible learning experience.
Whether you’ve worked as a nursery practitioner for 3 years or 30 years, these observations are a crucial part of your job role.
However, for many teachers, they can cause a certain level of anxiety as they know their performance and how the children behave are being monitored.
But don’t panic!
There are lots of things you can do to prepare for your observation to ensure it runs smoothly. By being prepared it gives you peace of mind that you have planned the lesson thoroughly as you know what topics you are going to teach beforehand.
This allows you to resolve any issues early on so you can feel more at ease when the observation is taking place.
What Is a Teaching Observation?
An observation during early years is a way to analyse how a teacher is performing and if there are any areas for improvement. The core goal is to improve the learning experience of students to ensure they are receiving the best standard of care.
An observation is usually undertaken by other teachers or Ofsted, and might also be referred to as a classroom walkthrough.
It’s important that the observer sits quietly while the lesson is in progress and takes notes based on what they are seeing. These notes can be used to provide the teacher with constructive feedback that can be incorporated into future lessons.
Various aspects of the classroom will be observed including how the children interact with each other, how the children interact with their teacher, lesson planning, learner interest, and management strategies.
Observations provide the perfect opportunity to identify room for improvement and suggest techniques that could be used to benefit both the teacher, and the students.
Regardless of whether a teacher is newly qualified (NQT) or has a wealth of experience, observations are key to improving early learning and childcare.
How to Prepare For Your Teaching Observation
Preparation is a key part of ensuring your observation is a success.
Although some level of anxiety is expected, preparing your lessons in advance helps you to feel more in control. There is nothing more frustrating for an observer than knowing a teacher hasn’t prepared.
Teachers should understand the importance of this observation and put effort into making it a success. After all, this is your job and you need to prove that students are receiving the best possible education.
This gives further credibility to the nursery or school, and also provides reassurance to parents that their children’s needs are being met.
Have a clear plan of what you are going to teach on the day of your observation.
Perhaps pick a topic or activity you know the children enjoy and engage in. Give yourself time to write the plan, prepare the materials, and set up any necessary equipment.
Also ensure the observer and any supporting staff in the classroom have a copy of the plan. This helps them understand the flow of the lesson better, and shows them that you are prepared. This is a clear representation of your planning as you have carefully considered the lesson in full.
With any plan, you should have a back up plan. After all, you are teaching young children and things can go wrong. You need to be prepared for this scenario, and be capable of adapting your plan to suit the needs of the current situation.
What if the students finish their work early? Have you prepared for further work?
Not having other resources prepared shows a lack of planning and organisation skills. You need to be versatile in your teaching method and ready for the unexpected.
Practice makes perfect!
By running through the lesson plan, you can identify any issues before the observation takes place. This will give you a chance to see how the children are responding to different activities, and also lets you prepare different resources.
Putting in time and effort before an observation will pay off and shows the observer that you’re committed to your job role.
Practice also allows you the opportunity to tweak your lesson plan to improve the experience for your students. What you initially thought would work on paper, might play out very differently in a real setting.
You don’t want your observation to be the first time you realise this. The children should be engaged and enthusiastic about the task at hand and should understand what is required of them.
It’s obvious when lessons have been thrown together and not effectively planned. You’re trying to show the observer that you’re good at your job and you know what you’re doing.
Don’t overlook the importance of practising or let outside distractions stop you from preparing. Nursery school practitioners are busy but this is your priority. It should take precedence over non-urgent matters.
You should tell the students in your class that you are being observed and when. Being open and transparent with children helps build up a sense of trust and is important for them to know.
This also increases the likelihood that they will be on their best behaviour (a big win for any nursery school practitioner!) as they know someone new is going to be in the classroom.
Make sure you talk to them about the observation to create an open line of communication. Explain that someone is coming into the classroom to observe you and to make sure they understand the importance of this.
During the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) this is especially important as children are very observant and quickly become aware of new people. If you don’t explain that someone new will be joining your classroom for a day, they will become distracted and will ask lots of questions.
Getting ahead of this enables you to explain why the person is coming and ensure the day runs smoothly.
This also sets an example to young children about adult life and different expectations in the real world.
You can model how to stay calm and perform in a stressful situation, which is a great life lesson for their future learning.
You should also communicate with other teachers who will be able to support you before your observation. Sharing your thoughts and experiences will help you feel more relaxed as every nursery practitioner will go through the same process.
Understand the Observation Format
Understanding how you are being observed will help you feel more relaxed.
The format should be transparent and accessible so you know how to prepare. You shouldn’t be going into this blind as this will add to your anxiety.
As mentioned, observations are not there to catch you out! And there is no secret formula to your observation.
Whether it’s a fellow teacher observing you or Ofsted, they want you to do well and to actually enjoy the experience. It doesn’t need to be daunting if you understand the process and what is required.
You should know the format, evaluation process, how long the observation lasts, and deadlines for lesson plans, so you can make sure everything is in check beforehand.
This will make you feel more comfortable as you understand what is expected of you and how you are being observed. This increases the likelihood of you doing well in your observation as you have had time to gather your thoughts and make a plan.
Furthermore, find out where to get the necessary documents you need for the observation. For example, lesson plan templates, as this can help you maximise productivity in your lessons.
Staying calm can be easier said than done. You have a lot to think about as a nursery practitioner, especially in early years as this provides the base for further development. There can be a lot of pressure from parents, and other teachers, for you to perform well.
The key to staying calm during your observation is making sure you have the above points in order.
Have you got a plan? Have you practiced your plan? Have you communicated with your students? Do you understand the observation format?
If so, you should feel a lot calmer, and a lot more in control.
And remember, these observations are a key part of your job and are there to improve the experience for both you and your students.
Every nursery school practitioner will go through the same experience so it is natural for you to be nervous.
Try to see the observation as an opportunity for improvement rather than an evaluation of your job performance. This will make it more exciting and you might even enjoy it.
Have confidence in your ability, and show the observer how great you are at your job. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are in control.
Staying calm in this situation also positions you as a great role model for young children as you are demonstrating how to perform under pressure.
Teacher Observations and Ofsted
As well as teacher observations, Ofsted also carry out inspections to ensure nurseries and schools are delivering a good quality education.
They use a framework that puts the curriculum at the centre, to inspect the quality of education being provided.
If an Ofsted inspection is looming, it’s natural for an Early Years practitioner to be nervous. The reassuring thing to remember is that Ofsted are not trying to ‘catch you out’ or make you slip up, but are simply there to assess the level and quality of teaching.
It’s their job to ensure different teaching criteria are being followed and to ensure children are receiving the level of education they need.
Ofsted understands that every early years classroom setting is unique and comes with a different set of requirements.
Their main focus is ensuring that children’s needs are being met as early years sets an important foundation for all future learning.
Whilst you can’t predict what questions are going to be asked on the day, there are a few common things inspectors will be looking for.
How Do You Manage Transitions During Early Years?
This is a key factor in a child’s development. Think about how you prepare young children for school and how you support them through this important time.
You need to explain how you make children feel safe and secure in your EYFS setting.
From reading skills to maths, Ofsted inspectors will want to know how you have prepared children for future learning. It can feel like a big step transitioning from EYFS to year 1, so you need to explain how you’re supporting this process.
How Do You Communicate With Parents?
Parents shouldn’t miss a moment of their child’s learning, despite not being physically present in the classroom environment.
With the Learning Journals platform you can easily record, upload, and share observations with parents to make them feel part of their child’s learning. Observations are limitless, giving you total freedom to share a child’s progress with their parents.
How Do You Cater for Different Needs?
As a nursery practitioner, you’ll understand that each child is unique. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses which will affect their speed and level of learning.
Your role is to ensure these needs are met and ensure they still receive the necessary support. Regardless of any learning difficulties or additional needs, each child should receive the same quality of learning.
What Is the Care Inspectorate?
The Care Inspectorate is an official body in Scotland who monitor the level of care in local organisations.
In nursery environments, they ensure every child is receiving the correct standard of care to support their development.
By carrying out inspections, they can identify any areas of concern to ensure every child has the best start in life and receives good education.
Using a scale of 1-6, the Care Inspectorate grade organisations on how they are performing and rate their care and support, environment, staffing, management and leadership.
This helps services improve their level of care and supports children through their early learning. It’s not just about inspecting organisations, but actively working with providers to improve their offering to make sure everyone gets the right standard of care.
How Can Learning Journals Help You Prepare for Your Teaching Observation?
At Learning Journals, we understand the importance of every observation.
As a nursery practitioner, you want to make a good impression and prove that you are good at your job.
With our platform, you can demonstrate how you engage with parents and keep them updated on their child’s learning.
By easily uploading and sharing observations, you can collaborate with parents quickly and easily, capturing every stage of their child’s development.
Furthermore, we can customise your learning framework to suit your needs.
Also from a management perspective, the Learning Journals platform helps you see the schedules of different staff members. This overview is key when inspections are taking place as it helps you to stay organised.
Use the visual dashboard to see upcoming events and if there are any reminders that need your attention.
Want to see the platform in practice? Request your free demo to see the benefits for yourself.
Preparing For Your Teaching Observation in Early Years Learning
For any nursery practitioner, an observation can be daunting.
Whether it’s a fellow teacher observing you or an Ofsted inspector, the thought of having someone judge your performance can cause a great deal of stress.
However, by making sure you are prepared, you can take back control of this situation and instead turn it into a positive experience.
By understanding what is required from the observation and the evaluation process, you can make sure you are fulfilling the criteria.
This will help you plan your lesson and ensure the observation is a success.