As a teacher trainer, I get this question all the time! Here are some ideas:
Seeing a colleague teaching is incredibly beneficial. Sometimes teachers say they want to see the ‘perfect’ lesson or teacher- which do not exist! Instead, try and peer observe teachers who are teaching a similar age group or level to you. It doesn’t matter how experienced they are, we can all learn something from our colleagues.
The important thing is to be an ‘active’ observer. During the observation, write notes about what you see- and even what you think is missing. Then reflect on this, after the observation.
Here’s a printable Peer observation for teenage classes with guiding questions. You may wish to choose just one or two sections of this document to use in one observation.
Ask your manager or a colleague to observe you
Don’t be shy about asking for a developmental observation. A colleague will see things that you don’t, and the feedback will help you reflect on your teaching. This feedback can also guide you in the steps you need to take to improve.
Record yourself teaching
While utterly embarrassing to watch yourself teach, this is a great way to improve your teaching when you may not have the most supportive manager or colleagues.
Watch the recording and make notes. You could use the Peer observation for teenage classes, as a self-observation task. Or you could consider your beliefs about teaching teenagers and write yourself some questions to consider as you watch the video back. These may include:
- How active were the learners during this lesson? Who was ‘doing’ the most- me or the students?
- Which parts of the lesson did the students seem to enjoy the most?
- At which points did the learners get distracted? Why was this?
- When did the learners have the most energy, and when did they have the least? Why was this?
- Were all activities challenging enough? If not, how could they have been adapted to provide more challenge?
- How much did the learners actually produce in this lesson?
- How many different interaction patterns were used, and when? Did the interaction patterns used impact the lesson positively?
Only record a lesson with teenagers if you have permission from their parents to film them. It’s important they agree to not only the recording being made, but also where the recording will be stored, and for how long.
Set yourself action points
If you self- or peer observe, then you will likely notice some areas of your teaching of teenagers that you wish to improve. Write down two or three action points. For example, managing group work or challenging stronger students.
Avoid action points that are too broad (e.g. be a better teacher or improve classroom management). Instead, try and drill down to discover what is at the core of the thing you want to improve.
Once you have some action points, you can search for articles, books or webinar recordings that focus on those areas. You may even do some Action Research in YL ELT.
Use your action points as motivation to experiment with your teaching of teenagers. If you read about something, try it out! Then reflect on whether it ‘worked’ for you, and why/why not. Even if something doesn’t seem impactful for you, trying it out and reflecting on it is valuable.
Share your development
After you have been working on your action points for a while, you may wish to share your findings/experience with others. You could make a poster to put up in your teachers’ room- a sure-fire way to stimulate discussion of ideas. Or perhaps you could offer to lead a sharing session for teachers about your experience.
I’m a big believer in teacher-led professional development, but if you have the money and the time, there are some fantastic courses that will give you a good grounding in the teaching of children and teenagers. You may find CPD: IH Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teenagers useful.