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Classroom Observation

Here you will find what you are expected to do during your observation period, and what I expect of your report.

Observing schools and classes

You should spend at least thirty hours in the schools - this will include classroom observation, interviews with members of the school staff and with the pupils, and observation of what happens outside the classroom itself. You should spend half of your time in collège and half of your time in lycée.

You will want to find out how the school is organized. What are the school's objectives? You will need to consult the 'Projet d'établissement'. How many different classes are there, how much time do the pupils spend studying English, and how much time do they spend studying other subjects? Look at the Onisep documents that explain these matters. Your introduction should present the school in general and the classes that you follow in particular.

You should observe a number of different classes, but concentrate upon one in each of the establishments. If possible, talk to the teacher both before and after the class - but remember, the teacher is a very busy person, and has many duties and constraints which may get in the way of her spending much time with you.

The Report

You are expected to write a report on your observation in the classroom. We will look at content, presentation and how the report will be marked

What you will write about

During each class period, you should try to concentrate upon one clearly defined question. The three that I want you to study in most detail, and to write about in your report are :

  1. Lesson structure. We will be talking about this in the seminars. I want you to try and pick out the different phases of the lesson, to note how different activities occur at different moments, and to see how the teachers make the transition from one phase to the next, from one activity to the next. You may find this difficult - and you must remember that you may well miss the structure completely if you do not observe closely.
  2. The Four Skills. How much time is spent on each of the skills, and how does the teacher manage them? How does she get the pupils to listen, to speak, to read, to write? How does she decide who will do what?
  3. Error treatment. Pupils make mistakes. How does the teacher react to these mistakes? Does he react the same way at each phase of the lesson? Does he differentiate between different types of error?

You will address these three questions in the main body of your report. In each case, you should begin with a question. For example :

  1. Why are lessons structured, and what criteria can we use to structure them?
  2. Is there a logical order to the presentation and practice of the four skills such that they occur at different moments of the learning process?
  3. How can errors be categorized? What kinds of errors do pupils make? Can pupils be made responsible for treating their own errors?

You will then go on to try and offer some tentative answers to your questions, making reference both to the material we have studied during the lectures or modules and to the observations that you have made in class. In your conclusion, you will try to sum up what you have learned about language teaching and language learning, both in the course-work you have done at the University and in the observation periods. You will attempt to relate the theoretical part of the course to the practical observations, and you will end by saying how you could refine your questions and what you would expect to gain from further courses and further observation.

What you will not write about

You must remember at all times that you are not an inspector or a journalist. It is not your role to criticize what you see in the classroom, to suggest what the teacher should have done or should not have done. You have only a very partial vision of the full process of learning - you do not work with the teacher day after day, nor do you follow a class throughout a year. Teachers are not obliged to open their doors to university students, and we should be very grateful to them for allowing us to see what happens inside the classroom ; those of your future colleagues who welcome visitors to their lessons deserve our respect.

Presenting the report

The report should be no longer than 20 pages of typescript : a page is 25 (double-spaced) lines long, each line consisting of 75 signs. You will leave a margin at both sides of the script. You may add to the report itself additional material such as photocopies of the documents used in classes and material presenting the school itself, but everything in the body of the text will be your own work - although you may, of course, use properly referenced quotations.

The report should be properly bound so that it will not fall apart in my hands while I'm reading it. Pages will not be sheathed in plastic sleeves - I need to be able to scribble on your work.

The report should be handed in for the last working-day in April. No reports will be accepted after this date.

The report will be written in English

Marking

I am looking for evidence that you have actually spent 30 hours in observation, that you have spoken to a number of teachers and administrators about their respective tasks, and that you have carefully watched a number of lessons. If you are able to demonstrate convincingly that you have carried out your observations with thoroughness and acuity, you will gain a pass.

I am looking for an attempt on the part of the student to relate the theories of SLA and didactics to the classroom practice of teachers and learners. If you show me that you have thought about the possible consequences of these questions, and that you have tried to move back and forth from theory to observation, from observation to theory, you will gain a good pass.

You are planning to be an English teacher. Your English should be of a high standard. Marks will be deducted for sloppy, grammatically inaccurate language. Incomprehensible English will be severely penalized.

If you have any questions, contact me at tmason@timothyjpmason.com (A click on my address will open a mail window for you to write to me directly. If you do not wish to reply on-line, save it and write the message later). I will both reply to you personally and post the answers here, or alter the document to take account of the problem.
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Timothy Mason

IUFM de Versailles


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