While visiting classrooms in Cleburne, TX, I came across an inspiring strategy used by staff members to encourage transparency, peer coaching, and esprit de corps among teachers—peer observation invitations. The concept of peer observations is certainly not new, but I found this welcoming implementation of the process to be both gratifying and compelling.
Next to each classroom door was a sign with the teacher’s name, photo, and grade level followed by a listing of two self-selected best practices that represented the personal improvement targets for the teacher. One example included:
Come into my classroom and see if:
Below the sign was a folder of pre-printed Classroom Visit Peer Observation forms with an invitation on the front. The invitation read, "You're Invited! You're invited to observe me using the enclosed form. Take one and join me in the classroom!" A sample peer observation kit has been included below for your own use. The kit contains (1) an invitation template including personal improvement goals that can be taped to your own folder of observation forms and (2) an observation form template that asks peers to comment on what they saw, what they enjoyed, and what they might suggest for future lessons. Click here or on the image below to download the kit for your own use.
This simple observation kit is designed to inspire and model a friendly tone while motivating and supporting each staff member’s professional practice. The concept of turning daunting peer observations into intriguing, targeted, and friendly visits made me ponder whether the millions of dollars that have been poured into structured statewide teacher evaluation protocols could possibly yield an equally effective impact on improving instructional practice. Sometimes it pays to keep it simple—best practices don't have to be complicated to have the greatest impact on learning. This high fidelity use of the peer observation model in Cleburne, TX, proves that.