Quality assurance is not possible without the involvement of all those
concerned and this makes regular self-assessment a particularly important
instrument in setting up systems for maintaining standards. Clearly, however,
awareness of problems and how the learning activities are perceived must
be complemented by procedures for putting things right. Teaching is the
core activity of schools and therefore it is essential that there are
systems for regular observation of teaching activities. The idea of teaching
observation is often confused with inspection and sanctions, but there
are numbers of ways in which it can be organised to be more constructive
- peer observation, where teachers
observe each other's classes and exchange feedback. This can be organised
within a mentoring system with a more experienced teacher providing
help and advice to a less experienced one, or "teacher tandems",
where two teachers work together co-operatively for a six month period.
Peer observation works best if it is designed to provide information
rather than evaluation and checklists can be devised which provide frames
for observing specific areas of teaching - the participation of members
of the class, the amount of teacher / learner talking time etc. Peer
observation heeds proper time allocation to free teachers to be able
to observe and to allow time for proper feedback.
- observation by a teacher trainer
who acts in a counselling and training mode and takes time to build
up teaching skills.
- observation of video lessons in
training activities can be a useful way of focussing on techniques;
there are published sets of extracts from lessons or they can be from
lessons videoed in the institution. If this is done, it is good practice
to let the teacher concerned choose and edit what s/he wants to show
- observation by the academic manager
responsible for teaching standards is a necessary part of quality assurance.
Standards for observation procedures would usually include good advance
notice of the observation, a checklist seen in advance by the teacher
concerned and enough time for systematic feedback afterwards.
Systematic observation will lead to continued work to maintain and develop
standards. It may also lead to a realisation that steps must be taken
to make changes or improvements. This will lead to the development of
projects, accompanied by in-service training. There is frequently resistance
to change in schools and it is important that change projects should be
properly organised and the cost of change assessed.
The cost of change is not, of course, simply to be seen in terms of money,
but in effort, use of resources etc. An institution applying steps for
quality assurance is likely to be one that is always learning and seeking
to improve continuously. It is, nevertheless, dangerous to be in a state
of constant change and useful to confirm and reinforce the things which
are being done well.
A possible procedure is:
Check what you are doing
Is it OK?
If yes, confirm it
If no, innovate
The confirmation of good practice is as important as the innovation
The Guide for the Evaluation and Design of Quality Language (A Guide
for the Evaluation and Design of Quality Language learning and teaching
Programmes and Materials, European Commission 2000) learning and teaching
Programmes and Materials, of the European Commission divides the process
of quality assurance into the three phases of Design, Implementation and
Outcome and provides series of checklists, in print and interactively
on CD-ROM, to assess practice against statements of good practice.
Pause for reflection
What arrangements do you have in your institution for:
- observing the teaching activities?
- providing help for less experienced teachers?
- regular review through organised self-assessment?
- innovating through projects?
- focused in-service training?
- comparing practice with best practice?