Tartu Forselius School, Estonia
Lesson observations can be an effective part of teachers’ CPD, but they’re not without their challenges. This was a lesson that Deputy Headteacher, Kristi Mumm and the teachers at Tartu Forselius School in Estonia met head-on using IRIS Connect’s video and feedback tools. It resulted in teachers being able to:
- analyse lessons more deeply to understand for themselves where they can improve;
- see each other teach more frequently;
- give and receive more effective feedback;
- feel more confident in their skills and capabilities;
- build a stronger community of trust and support.
Like some schools in Estonia, teachers at Tartu Forselius were observing each other’s lessons just twice a year, meaning the consistency and depth of feedback they gave and received didn’t effectively support their teachers’ growth.
As a result, some teachers felt that their professional development had reached a dead end, and for an innovative and award-winning school focused on providing the very best teaching and learning, this was a big issue.
Deputy Headteacher, Kristi Mumm, knew something had to change but had no idea that inspiration would come from a trip to London.
“During a visit to Ainslie Wood Primary School, I was introduced to the idea of filming lessons for lesson observation and feedback,” she explains. “When I returned to my school, it was still on my mind so I started researching how to do this, to learn more about it. I was immediately drawn to IRIS Connect because it’s easy to use and solves the problems we were having around capturing lesson observations.
We were facing challenges such as:
- providing guidance and tools to help teachers analyse lessons more constructively;
- showing teachers the parts of the lesson that feedback relates to rather than relying on memory;
- and helping those staff who didn’t have time to visit their colleague’s classrooms and observe their lessons to see lessons via video instead.”
How IRIS Connect helped
The research Kristi did soon led to the school adopting IRIS Connect and just a year in, the 10 teachers using the kit, are seeing really positive results.
In Estonia lesson observations typically happen twice a year. Through the use of IRIS Connect, the teachers of Tartu Forselius School are now observing each other on a monthly basis increasing the scope and potential for teacher CPD, significantly.
They’ve also created a series of Forms that they use to help analyse lessons effectively, which they hope to share with other Estonian schools using IRIS Connect.
Kristi says: “In the beginning we just tried to get used to sharing our lessons but recently we’ve started using the forms feature. I actually used some of the ready made-forms and in the future we’ll be creating our own as a team.”
Art teacher, Elts Kuhhi says: “We have a small team with whom we share clips of lessons each month. We set a focus based on our personal needs and ask colleagues to comment. For example, I recently asked a team member to look at the overall working mood in my class, and whether they noticed anybody who needed my attention. The feedback I received was great and really improved my confidence.”
Teacher of 24 years, Inga Lokko says: “I was interested in using IRIS Connect because I felt that my professional development had reached a standstill and that getting some objective feedback (through video) would help me to see where and how I could improve. So, it’s been great to see myself from a different perspective and to find new ways to develop. It’s also allowed me more opportunities to see my colleagues’ lessons which I didn’t have before because I have no free lessons. It really has taught me to analyse my lessons more deeply, to explore differentiation, and to search for different ways to persuade students to be more active in the lesson.”
Pille Arro, English and Maths teacher says: “Although teachers in our school collaborated a lot before using IRIS Connect, I feel like the teachers who are using the system are somehow more connected to each other and working together even more than ever-before. This brings us closer together as we support and encourage each other.”
Ingrit Tera has been teaching for 21 years: “The benefits of IRIS Connect are priceless. I would certainly recommend it to anyone as a good opportunity to grow professionally.”
Results and future plans
Moving forwards the school plans to continue working with IRIS Connect to improve the lesson observation and feedback process, and to extend its use from just 10 teachers to 20 in the coming year.
“I really like that, as a school, we are talking more about teaching and learning with each other,” says Kristi. “Teachers are analysing their lessons more deeply, their understanding of themselves as teachers has grown, and they are more open to feedback. I want that for all of our teaching staff, not just some. I think IRIS Connect is a very efficient tool in helping to support teachers’ professional development. I really do recommend it and think it’s great value for money.”
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Teachers can take control and arrange their own professional learning experiences and resources. As well as share easily with each other to make collaboration simple, organised and effective.
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