My name is Emma Hannon and I’m the Assistant Headteacher of La Retraite - a Roman Catholic all-girls school in Clapham, South London. I am responsible for the training and development of our teachers.
In January three teachers and I took part in Ai-Media's Visible Classroom programme. Although I thought it was a great idea, we all had reservations about it initially. Would it be a hassle to use? Would it cause disruption in the classroom? How would we find time to engage with the feedback, given our very busy schedules? And, of course, would it actually help to improve our teaching?
We needn’t have worried. We were amazed by what we learnt about ourselves.
For a start, it was much more straight-forward than we had imagined. The training provided by Ai-Media was brief and clear. Using it in our classrooms, we forgot about it in no time at all. In fact, it very quickly became apparent that this was an incredible tool for us to reflect on our teaching.
When someone observes your lesson, you don’t necessarily get feedback on things like how fast you’re talking and the different kinds of questions pupils are asking. With Visible Classroom we received feedback on this immediately after lessons.
Rereading our transcripts made us realise how disjointed our sentences sometimes were. Soon we all started sharing what we had found out with our older students. For example, I showed my pupils how much and how quickly I was talking, which ended up with me having a really good conversation with my class. Another teacher showed a disruptive pupil just how much lesson time was taken up by behaviour management. This has made lasting improvements to the lessons.
All four of the La Retraite teachers taking part in Visible Classroom are teaching the same age range. We found ourselves emailing each other when we had read something in our transcripts we wanted to share. It made us talk and reflect more deeply on our teaching.
The real power of Visible Classroom for teachers is the objective feedback. As a teacher, it’s sometimes very hard to know what's actually happening in your classroom. Seeing metrics about your pace and percentage of speaking time is invaluable.
Visible Classroom is a tool I would recommend to any teacher. As a deputy head I would particularly recommend it to teachers in the first couple of years of their careers. I think they would find it just as effective as having someone in the classroom observing them, without the intimidating aspect which that can entail.
It has been a great experience for the teachers of La Retraite, and I will definitely be looking to enrol more teachers in the Visible Classroom programme.
Written by Emma Hannon, Assistant Headteacher of La Retraite Roman Catholic School