Observation In Teaching: Towards a Practice of Objectivity
by Jacquelien Bos, Jan Terwel, Nico Verloop & Wim Wardekker — 2002
Because most informal classroom assessment is based on the observation of students by teachers, the purpose of the present study is to construct a view of this assessment that is consistent with the practitioners’ perspective. To find out how teachers frame observation, we analyzed stories of 25 Dutch teachers about teaching diverse learners and focused on what they said about the observation of students. Most attempts to improve observation have recommended the separation of subject and object in an effort to eliminate teachers’ personal frameworks. The present study, however, shows that observation is embedded in the action of teaching. Thus, the realities of the classroom do not allow teachers to separate themselves from what they are observing. An alternative view of objectivity is presented. This transactional view shows that the quality of teachers’ personal frameworks is important and should not be eliminated: The supposition of being neutral and detached hampers the teaching of diverse learners. To prevent self-fulfilling prophecies from influencing student achievement in a negative way, pedagogical craftsmanship is essential. Starting from this view, the reliability and the validity of observation for classroom assessment are reframed in a nonstatistical way. According to this view, social practice plays an important role in deciding whether observation deserves a quality warrant. Apart from an alternative view of concepts such as objectivity, a practice of objectivity requires new ways of constructing theories and mentoring teachers to sharpen their perceptive faculty.
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