“A great teacher is not only interacting, knowledgeably, with the learners but is also interacting with the content. What is the best way to present the content to this group of students? How will you know what they have learned? Misconceptions?”
This was in response to reading a blog, an excellent blog by Tom Sherringham – which I can’t find to link to – about lesson observation. He has a focus on what the teacher knows about the learners. It struck me that one needed great teachers to also have a high level of understanding of the curriculum and how that curriculum is best taught.
So I would want to ask the teacher about what they were teaching.
Why is this being taught now? I want to hear more than just it comes next in the scheme of work.
How is this being taught? More than just the particular resources. Why these resources and not alternatives?
How will you know when this has been learned? Testing now and, critically, after some time has elapsed. What kind of tests, what time scales, what success rate?
How will you know it is time to move on to the next content or that you have to reteach this one? Some sort of staged testing. Carefully constructed quick mid-lesson quiz.
What are common misconceptions for this content? How have you planned to deal with them?
There are other questions to ask. I would want there to be a set of these which are transparent to the observer and the teacher. They are not here to catch out the teacher but are here to support and structure the lessons.
One of the very real challenges in teaching is trying to deal effectively with the range of learning in any class. Those that are set up as mixed ability will have a larger range than those set up as set by ability. Both classes will have some children who have understood well and some who are still not getting it. There are benefits to both ways of organising classes. But in both one needs to know where each child is. The checking what each child has currently taken from the lesson is important. Probably more important is how much they have learned which is only possible to check after some time has elapsed.