Summary of Clinical Supervision Cycle
The clinical supervision model for conducting observations has been used in the education field for decades. Clinical supervision involves a teacher receiving information from an administrator, colleague, peer coach, or mentor, who has observed the teacher’s performance and who serves as both a mirror and a sounding board to aid the teacher in critical examination of a specific aspect of their instruction and possibly alter his or her own professional practice. Clinical supervision is an instruction improving tool in which a high degree of mutual trust and commitment to growth is required on the part of the teacher and observer.
The structure of a clinical observation cycle includes five steps: 1) pre-conference, 2) observation, 3) analysis and interpretation, 4) post-conference, and 5) critique. While classroom observations are most often conducted by supervisors or principals, for the cycle referenced in this summary, I conducted an observation of a fellow teacher. We worked together to complete a clinical supervision cycle at a day camp where we both teach part time during the summer. The classroom (and I use that term loosely) used for this observation consisted of fifteen second grade students (or at least students around the 2nd grade age range.
The students come and go from week to week, so there is not much consistency through the summer. The education side of the program was designed to simply keep students/campers in the mind set of learning throughout the summer. Because students come and go fairly regularly lessons are project based with projects lasting only one week. Needless to say, Mrs. J and I are both aware that the structure of the clinical supervision cycle would be the same, but the experience and impact on student learning would be different if conducted with our school students during the regular school year. Step 1: Pre-Observation Conference
The pre-observation conference serves as an opportunity for the teacher and observer to discuss the purpose for the observation and to decide on the focus of the observation, the method and forms to be used, the time of the observation, and the time for the post-conference. In addition, the teacher should mentally rehearse and orally describe the upcoming lesson, including the purpose and the content, what the teacher will do, and what students are expected to do and learn. The supervisor should learn about and understand what the teacher has in mind for the lesson to be taught by asking probing and clarifying questions.
To guide the pre-conference discussion, I used the “Pre-observation Form” (Form F) from Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching. I gave Mrs. J a copy of Form F prior to the conference so she could be prepared to discuss the content of her lesson as well as share any areas of instruction she would like me to focus on. During the conference I learned that Mrs. J had begun a research project on the countries of the world at the beginning of the week and I would be observing a lesson on speaking and listening, which would be in preparation for students to share their research with one another.
Through the discussion guided by Danielson’s form F, it was apparent to both of us that the nature of the day camp did not allow for Mrs. J to really know her students. There was not much we could do about that given the time restraints, but Mrs. J did ask that I focus on how often she called on each student during her lesson. Because some students return every week and it may have been some students’ first week, Mrs. J felt like she had been calling more on students who had been around longer simply because she knew their names.
The pre-conference allow for us me to attain background knowledge about the lesson, gather evidence for domain one, as well as allowed for us to decide on logistics for the observation. It was decided that I would use both a categorical frequency form for calling on students and a performance indicator form to record teaching actions. I showed Mrs. J the summary form I would be completing from the observation, for the post-conference. The pre-conference gave us both a feeling of preparedness for the observation and eased any tension there may been.
Step 2: Observation The observation is the follow-through on the pre-conference. The teacher should teach the lesson as well as possible and the supervisor should record events during the lesson as accurately as possible according the methods agreed upon during the preconference. During the observation I used the back of Form F for general observation notes as well as a two form sheet that I created to quickly record information we specifically discussed in the pre-conference. The first half of the form listed the names of each student in the class, and provided space to tally and calculate the frequency in which Mrs.
J called on each student. The second half of the form included a checklist of teaching components. It was too difficult to use Form G during the observation itself because there are so many components and pages. It would have been a distraction to the teacher. Having the smaller forms to use was a major benefit to me. If I had tried to observe and record the specifics we discussed without having the specialized forms it would have been even more difficult to keep up with than it was.
I feel like the observation step was the hardest for me because the time flew by so fast and I was responsible for collecting evidence to help Mrs. J improve her teaching. In order to make a fair and accurate analysis, I had to be on my toes. I am sure it will become easier with practice, but it was not as easy as I would have assumed. Step 3: Analysis and Interpretation Once the observation is complete, analysis and interpretation can take place. The teacher typically is not involved in this step of the process.
The supervisor’s task in step 3 is two-fold; 1) to make sense of the raw data and 2) to develop a plan for the conference. During analysis and interpretation, interpretations must be made based on the analysis of the data collected during the observation and pre-conference. During this step I took the three forms used in both pre-conference and the observation to record data and asked these questions: What patterns are evident in the data? Are any critical incidents or turning points obvious? What strengths did the teacher exhibit? Were any techniques especially successful?
Which patterns, events, and concerns are most important to address and can be addressed in the time available? How will the conference begin? How will the conference end? I also complied the data into Form G of Danielson’s Framework for teaching in preparation for the post-conference. Using Form G during this step was helpful to me as a supervisor because it helped sort out some of the data during analysis as well as provided an organized summary of the data collect, for the teacher, and how it relates to the teaching practice/student learning.
Based on part of our conversation during the pre-conference and through the analysis and interpretation process I decided it was best to use a collaborative approach with Mrs. J during our post-conference. I decided to use this approach because Mrs. J and I are at about the same level of expertise when it comes to the subject matter and in the matter of calling on students at an equal frequencies, which was one of the main focuses of the observation. Plus, both of us were committed to solving this problem.
Step 4: Post-conference The post-conference is held to discuss the analysis of the observation and to come up with a plan for improvement of instruction. The teacher should critically examine their own teaching with an open mind and tentatively plan for the next lesson. The supervisor should help clarify and build upon the teacher’s understanding or the behaviors and events that occurred in the classroom. The post-conference with Mrs. J went very smoothly. I feel like using the collaborative approach along with the questions from Form F of the Danielson framework, and the summary of the observation, Form G, proved to be beneficial to both of us.
As a supervisor, I was able to share the data I collected and the interpretations I made about Mrs. J’s teaching practice with her in a not threatening way because she was able to share her own thoughts about her teaching and I then responded and played off of her thoughts. As a teacher, she was able to have ownership in solutions and the plan for the future. Mrs. J was given a copy of Form G so she could see and respond to all observation I made. I also let her see the frequency tally sheet used during the observation and analysis.
We discussed many things about her teaching but when it came to her main focus decided on during our preconference, we discussed the need for knowing her students better, the reasons why do so is difficult in this summer setting, and a possible solutions to at least knowing and using their names more often during instruction. I thought it was interesting that one of solutions we came up with was the tried and true “need and turn/had a turn” names on popsicle sticks. Step 5: Critique Once steps 1-4 have been completed it is time for reviewing whether the format and procedures were satisfactory and beneficial.
The teacher should provide honest feedback to the supervisor about how well the cycle went. The supervisor, should critically examine their own performance during the clinical supervision cycle. Questions that could be asked of both the teacher and the supervisor could include, but are not limited to: how well did the clinical supervision cycle go? What worked well? What did not work well? If you could do it again, what would you do differently? What will you do differently during the next clinical supervision cycle? At the end of our post-conference, I simply asked Mrs. J a few of the above mentioned questions.
She was able to honestly express a little confusion as to why so many forms were used during the process. She voiced a small concern about why we used such an in-depth form (summary Form G) if our focus decided on in pre-conference was so pointed. I thought it was a good question and responded that maybe in the future Form G should be used for more formal summative evaluations that include all aspects of teaching, and simply using a more basic observation tool would have been just as effective for collecting and analyzing data.
I also voiced, during the critique, that I felt the pre and post-conferences and the forms used during both were effective and helped guide the observation and plan for improvements, despite the observation and analysis tool used. Mrs. J agreed with me and added that the way the post-conference was done did not seem like a waste of her time. Reflective Analysis While this activity was very involved and more difficult than I originally thought it was going to be, it improved my understanding of a supervisor’s role in facilitating the clinical model in supervision of teachers.
By putting me in the role of the supervisor, this activity made me realize just how hard it is to accurately and fairly observe a teacher in span of a 30 minute classroom observation. That is why I feel have the pre and post-conferences are such a vital part of the cycle. I feel like my strong points as a supervisor were conducting the conference and my weakest part of the cycle as the observation. Based on my performance as an observer, it is safe to say supervisors need ample training and a lot of practice.