We must seek, as part of our ongoing vocation, to pursue educational innovation. This entails academic models based on experiential learning, where students learn through experiences both inside and outside the classroom. This model is based on quality, internationality, and employability. Through real challenges, applicable projects, actual experiences, and interprofessional collaboration students graduate prepared for success in a volatile and complex environment in which they may work in professions which do not yet exist. It is also equally important to train responsible citizens to have a positive impact on our society, not only locally but also globally as well. But how can we educators be trained to teach under this very complex and groundbreaking educational philosophy? Well, the same way that we do so with our own students, namely through training which incorporates alternative learning methods, a form teacher development not very common in Spain to date. However, the European University has already incorporated this modality as part of its Development Plan for the 2014-15 academic year. According to data from the HR department, between 2015 and 2017, 508 training observations were carried out among professors from all faculties and different areas of learning, thus representing a significant training modality in effect at the university.
In the article presented here, 12 teachers who participated in formative observation during their first year are analyzed. These teachers – who were from different backgrounds and profiles – participated in this qualitative study in which they were interviewed in depth about their experience and were asked how observing other teachers, often in different areas of learning and using other methodologies than what the observer was accustomed to, had contributed to their learning as educators. The methodology of this type of peer observation consisted of sitting two teachers together before carrying out the observation in order for them to establish what they wanted to be observed and the type of feedback they wanted to receive after being observed. After agreeing on the observation conditions, each of them had to observe the other in one of his or her classes so that each teacher could participate both as the observer and as the person observed. The teachers then sat down again in a session where they shared their notes and provided each other feedback about possible improvements or suggestions for changes in their teaching methods.
The main conclusions obtained in the study revealed a good degree of openness and acceptance of this methodology by the teachers, especially in their role as observers, with particular emphasis on the value of updating their teaching strategies, improving the understanding of the university environment in the case of new teachers, and the shared reflection that all of this generates about teaching practices. The professors highlighted certain aspects to be taken into consideration with regard to this process and the training plan, namely the implementation of the training activity and the difficulty of finding compatible scheduling between the pairs of teachers. Finally, it became clear that the interviewed teachers who had more extensive academic profiles, despite tending to perceive themselves as better educators, feel that they incorporate fewer connections with the professional world as part of their teaching method.
And what opinion did the participants have about the process of observing each other as part of their teaching development?
It makes you want to say: Wow, very good! I can apply this… You know yourself, you realize that you’re doing well.”
“We have shared a close relationship. What is closer than the relationship – in our line of work – that forms when you close the classroom door and have your students before you? What is closer than the teacher-student relationship? You have received somebody in that field. Of course it changes.”
“My background is predominantly in the university world and I have worked less in the professional sector, whereas this teacher is more from the professional world and has worked abroad in other countries. As such, he was able to provide many examples from various companies, though not from Spanish companies but rather about how things are done abroad and many of the concepts were presented in English.”
“After this observational training I don’t know if I can say whether or not I am a better teacher, but I can say that I have more confidence in myself.”
If you are interested in learning more about this study and about observational training as a teaching method for development, you can find the full article through the following link: