Peer observation is about teachers observing each others’ [sic] practice and learning from one another. It aims to support the sharing of best practice and build awareness about the impact of [one’s] own teaching.35

Observing other educators’ practice can be one of the most powerful and cost-effective development tools available.  When done well, peer-observation can support staff to develop specific areas of practice.  It can work across formal and non-formal educators to provide a rich and varied observation context.  When done well, the observer and observee are collaborators in the ongoing quest for pedagogical development; both can agree in advance the focus of the developmental lesson observation so that it is a rich experience for both parties.  This also avoids the ‘high-stakes’ observation culture that is dominant in many English schools.

Our reference point for the approach to observation that we wanted to adopt for this project is Matt O’Leary’s work in Classroom Observation: A Guide to the Effective Observation of Teaching and Learning.  In this text, published in 201436 and updated in 2020, O’Leary suggests teachers and schools can ‘use observation as a lens for understanding, informing and improving teaching and learning’ (overview page).37.  This resonated both with the intentions behind observation as enshrined in the design of this project, but also with staff responsible for teaching and learning at Regent High School.  As such, the experimental nature of the Erasmus+ project became a space for trialling O’Leary’s approach.

The most interesting element was to observe the different teachers and other practitioners, and their approaches and methods…38

There are 11 observation approaches that have been applied during the three years of the Erasmus+ project, which variously focus on the teachers’ practice, interaction in the classroom, learner engagement and pedagogical understanding:

1. Analysis of teacher roles in the classroom

2. Student interaction and participation

3. Managing resources

4. Case study of an individual learner

5. Analysing classroom interaction

6. Teacher focus on strategies and techniques

7. Understanding the lesson and its aims

8. Developing questioning

9. Tracking behaviour for learning: individual learner case study

10. Developing praise with a growth mindset

11. Stretch and challenge

My workshops changed from being centred/focused on the teacher to being focused on the students.  Students became the protagonists of my workshops in the end.39

Each practitioner was allowed to choose the observation approach that felt most comfortable and useful in a given workshop.  Discussions between practitioners also influenced which aspects of their lesson provided the focus.  We asked visiting cultural education practitioners to use the same approach when observing lessons taught by us so that the post-workshop feedback was as fluid as possible. 

Observation has given me the opportunity to reflect on my own use of methods, techniques and approaches…40

This approach has enabled us to create a discursive space in which good pedagogical practice was discussed and developed.  It supported an ethos of sharing and learning so that practitioners felt valued and able to experiment without fear of negative challenge.  It is, for us, an important element in creating a rich and inquisitive atmosphere.

During the whole time of the project, reflection on my lessons has intensified.  I try out more different methods.41



35 Education and Training, Victoria State Government.  ‘Peer observation’.  Melbourne, 2021.  Visit this website.  [Accessed 3 July 2021].  The state of Victoria in Australia has implemented a strategic plan that includes a target for state schools that ‘more students excel in the arts’.  See Education and Training, Victoria State Government.  Department of Education and Training: 2019-2023 Strategic Plan.  Melbourne, 2021.  Visit this website.   [Accessed 3 July 2021].  See also and Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority.  ‘Victorian Curriculum: Foundation-10’.  Melbourne, 2021.  Visit this website.  [Accessed 3 July 2021].

36 Updated in 2020.

37 O’Leary, M.  Classroom Observation: A Guide to the Effective Observation of Teaching and Learning.  London: Routledge, 2014; updated 2020.

38 Swedish teacher, 2020.

39 Spanish teacher, 2020.

40 Hungarian teacher, 2020.

41 German teacher, 2020.


Image of a classroom