Observational learning describes the process of learning through watching others, retaining the information, and then later replicating the behaviours that were observed… Psychologist Albert Bandura is the researcher perhaps most often identified with learning through observation. He and other researchers have demonstrated that we are naturally inclined to engage in observational learning. REFERENCE
I have found observational learning to be a good way of improving teaching practice that is tailored, flexible and free!
It is good for focusing on particular areas to develop or for just finding out how others approach teaching to generally improve one’s own practice.
Tony Robbins once said “If you want to be successful, find someone who has achieved the results you want and copy what they do and you’ll achieve the same results.”
So think about which areas of your teaching you want to improve and then find out who excels at it. Is it classroom management? Explaining difficult concepts? Making your own resources? Using IT? Using different kinds of informal assessments?
By asking around you can often find who has that particular strength and then go and ask if you can observe them. Preferably ask if you can have a chat afterwards as well, to find out about their teaching philosophy and to ask any questions you may have.
People are normally flattered if you ask to observe them and are willing to share their expertise to help you develop so don’t be afraid to ask. There does need to be a certain amount of trust involved so it is worth making clear your motives and reassuring them that it is about your development and that your observations will remain confidential.
You could watch some videos of our Inspirational Academics to find out what inspires them in their teaching and maybe be inspired yourself.
Of course observing is only half the process. To develop ourselves we need to reflect on the observation and consider how we could use this information to develop ourselves further.
“People not only gain understanding through reflection, they evaluate and alter their own thinking.” (Albert Bandura Social Foundations of Thought and Action, 1986)
Reflection can use a variety of material to help inform our decision on what to do differently and how to put that into practice. As well as observing someone else you can add some reflections on your own past experiences that link to what you have observed. You could also explore some of the learning theories to see if these provide further insights.
Using a mentor as a sounding board can be useful when we have explored a topic and need to decide what to do next. Sometimes all we need is someone we can talk it through with. The LETS team offer an Elevate Mentoring Scheme that provides support for anyone who teaches or supports learning at TUOS so if you can’t informally find your own mentor it may be worth contacting them.
Observational learning can be one of the best ways of developing your teaching practice. Reading or hearing about different teaching methods does not always help us in how we can apply it in our own situation but seeing it in action can help bring it all together. Go on, give it a try!
Don’t forget out Think Further Resources are available with August featuring Teaching as it’s topic:
Week 1 Developing a teaching portfolio – released 7 August
Week 2 Teaching practice – released 14 August
Week 3 Evaluating you teaching – released 21 August
Week 4 Applying for teaching roles – released 28 August