Recently I completed a full clinical cycle with a colleague of mine, Mrs. K. I recorded our post-observation conference so that I could analyze it later. Frustratingly, my video cut out without my realizing it, and I lost 15 minutes of the 20 minute postconference. For that reason, I am relying on notes and memory more than I would have liked.
Mrs. K and I sat together at a round table in her classroom. We picked that location so that she would be more in her comfort zone. I “talk with my hands” and I noticed when watching the video that I did a lot of gesturing and leaning forward. Mrs. K was smiling and cheerful but more contained and quiet, reflecting her nervousness at being observed even unofficially. During the conference, I quickly felt that I was “taking over” although I was just reviewing the observation notes at first. I should have given her more time to talk about her thoughts regarding the lesson before jumping into my notes. I corrected this during the rest of the conference (the part that did not tape). Regarding my delivery, I think that I came across as very positive, but also uncertain and too “buddy-buddy” on occasion—reflecting my own nervousness!
We both had copies of the preconference information. When previously working with Mrs. K, I had thought her to be a “Caring” communication style—primarily concerned with harmony and giving support. I gave her the inventory from Honoring Diverse Teaching Styles by Edward Pajak, and was surprised when her result was “Knowing,” which is a style more concerned with efficiency, standards and procedures, and getting results. This helped me to understand that someone can be very nurturing and warm, as Mrs. K is, but as a teacher seeking to improve her craft, she might operate in a very different communication mode. Suggestions for a Knowing style teacher were to highlight the presence or absence of desired behaviors, be friendly but clear and direct, focus on the observable and functional, and think through new ideas together, all of which I incorporated in the post-observation conference.
I provided Mrs. K with a copy of my notes from the observation, and we discussed each section. I made sure to emphasize the positive first. Her instruction was structured clearly around a gradual release of responsibility model, and her management was excellent. The two major areas of concern were ensuring that Mrs. K knew that every student had achieved the learning objective, and making sure that all students participated during small group activities. I gave Mrs. K a few ideas regarding cooperative learning structures that I have found helpful, and suggested that she attend an upcoming Kagan Cooperative Learning workshop that could help her with both areas of concern.
I realize that I started the conference in a very directive mode, since I was telling Mrs. K things that I thought were positive about the lesson. I took that approach because of the suggestions about communicating with a Knowing style teacher, but still felt that it was too “reinforcing,” implying “This is what I, the evaluator, am telling you that you did right.” However, we quickly progressed to more of a problem-solving discussion. While Mrs. K is a new teacher, she has extensive substitute teaching experience, including long-term substitute teaching, and was already aware of the areas of concern I noticed—she just needed to think it through and get some ideas on how to approach the problems. A less directive approach is the appropriate one to take with her overall.