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  • Exploring experienced teachers’ and supervisors’ perspectives on

    post-observation feedback sessions

    Author: Peter Willems

    University of Leeds

    Winner of the British Council’s ELT Master’s Dissertation Awards 2019

  • Exploring experienced teachers’ and supervisors’ perspectives on post-observation

    feedback sessions

    Peter Willems

    Supervisor: Mohammad Javad Ahmadian

    September 2018

  • Acknowledgements I would like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to Dr. Mohammad Javad Ahmadian,

    my dissertation supervisor, for his enduring and very valuable guidance and feedback.

    I am thoroughly indebted to Dr. Amanda Howard, an expert in observation and feedback in the

    TESOL community, who provided me with insight into the topic of my study.

    I owe a great deal of gratitude to the teachers and supervisors who participated in this study

    because their willingness to include me in their busy schedules made this project possible.

    I would also like to express my deepest appreciation to my family and friends for their support,

    especially my mother and sister Jean who provided me with input during numerous steps along

    the way.

  • ‘Unfortunately, for many teachers […] observation is about as welcome as a poke in the eye

    with a sharp stick.’

    Watson-Davis (2009, p.5)

    ‘The post-observation conference […] usually carries the potential of being an agonizing

    experience for [teachers and supervisors].’

    Shrigley and Walker (1981, p.560)

    ‘Teacher evaluation – a term that brings fear, anticipation, stress, anxiety, or even boredom to

    the hearts of teachers and administrators everywhere.’

    Danielson and McGreal (2000, back cover)

    ‘I’ve got friends who were good teachers who left teaching because they really couldn’t stand

    the audacity of someone observing. Something as little as that.’

    Anonymous supervisor

    ‘It’s a stressful experience. You know that your job hangs in the balance and it’s obviously an

    identity thing as well and you’re being judged and no one likes being judged. And obviously it’s

    an intrusion into your own personal space because my classroom is, as far as I’m concerned, is

    my personal space.’

    Anonymous teacher

  • Table of Contents

    Chapter One – Introduction

    1.1 Motivation for the study ...................................................................................................... 1

    1.2 Contentious .......................................................................................................................... 3

    1.3 Literature available .............................................................................................................. 4

    1.4 Purpose of the study ............................................................................................................ 4 Chapter Two – Literature Review 2.1 Background........................................................................................................................... 5

    2.1.1 Observations .............................................................................................................. 5 2.1.2 Supervisor .................................................................................................................. 7

    2.2 Feedback sessions ................................................................................................................ 8 2.2.1 Experienced teachers’ difficulties ............................................................................... 8 2.2.2 Approaches .............................................................................................................. 11 Directive approach ...................................................................................................... 11 Non-directive approaches ............................................................................................ 13 2.2.3 Directive approach remains strong ........................................................................... 16 2.2.4 Untrained supervisors .............................................................................................. 17 2.2.5 High degree of mitigation ......................................................................................... 19

    Chapter Three – Methodology 3.1 Research questions ............................................................................................................. 21

    3.2 Approach ............................................................................................................................ 21

    3.3 Sampling ............................................................................................................................. 22

    3.4 Procedures.......................................................................................................................... 24

    3.5 Data analysis ...................................................................................................................... 26

    3.6 Limitations .......................................................................................................................... 27

    3.7 Ethics .................................................................................................................................. 28 Chapter Four – Findings 4.1 Teachers ............................................................................................................................. 29

    4.1.1 Difficulties during feedback sessions ............................................................................ 29

    4.1.2 Positive feedback sessions ............................................................................................ 33

  • 4.1.3 Teachers’ solutions for feedback sessions..................................................................... 35

    4.1.4 Artificial performance and defensiveness ..................................................................... 36

    4.2 Supervisors ......................................................................................................................... 37

    4.2.1 Difficulties during feedback sessions ............................................................................ 37

    4.2.2 Positive feedback sessions and solutions ...................................................................... 40 Chapter Five – Discussion 5.1 Findings linked to previous research .................................................................................. 45

    5.1.1 The directive approach can be detrimental .................................................................. 45

    5.1.2 Non-directive approaches can be advantageous ........................................................... 46

    5.1.3 High degree of mitigation ............................................................................................. 47

    5.1.4 Untrained supervisors .................................................................................................. 47

    5.2 Unexpected findings ........................................................................................................... 47

    5.3 Contradictions in findings ................................................................................................... 48

    5.4 Implications ........................................................................................................................ 51

    5.4.1 Training supervisors ..................................................................................................... 51

    5.4.2 Future research possibilities ......................................................................................... 53

    Chapter Six – Conclusion .................................................................................................... 54

    References ................................................................................................................................ 56

    Appendix A: Teachers’ semi-structured interview questions ................................................... 61

    Appendix B: Supervisors’ semi-structured interview questions ............................................... 63

    Appendix C: Semi-structured follow-up interview questions: Nur ........................................... 65

    Appendix D: Semi-structured follow-up interview questions: Catherine ................................. 66

    Appendix E: Semi-structured follow-up interview questions: Bill ............................................ 67

    Appendix F: Semi-structured follow-up interview questions: George...................................... 68

    Appendix G: Semi-structured follow-up interview questions: Ann .......................................... 69

    Appendix H: Extracts from interviews ...................................................................................... 70

    Appendix I: Information sheet ................................................................................................. 81

    Appendix J: Consent form ........................................................................................................ 82