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Section 1: The Observation Cycle

Conducting Formal Observations

Conducting observations and providing feedback are responsibilities of mentor teachers whether supervising teacher candidates, mentoring on the job interns, or supporting new teachers. Opportunities to observe and provide feedback will vary greatly —from informal and unplanned to formal and structured— depending on the nature of your mentoring relationship. For mentors working with teacher candidates, the opportunities to observe and provide feedback are plentiful. You are sharing students within a classroom space and responsibility for their learning. However, for mentors of on-the-job interns or new teachers, it is likely that opportunities for feedback will need to be planned to accommodate both teachers’ schedules.


For the purposes of this section, we will focus on the latter —formal, structured observations. This is not to say that feedback can only be provided after a formal observation or that all observations should include a full cycle. Rather, it is to acknowledge that formal observations play an important role in the intentional and targeted professional development of teacher candidates, on the job interns, and new teachers. It is also possible that some of the principles, tenets, and practices associated with formal observations and feedback can be modified and applied to informal observations that are a routine part of your interactions with your teacher candidate or mentee. 


Best practices in supervision suggest formal observation should be conducted as part of a cycle of planning and reflection (Sergiovanni, Starratt, & Cho, 2013; Robbins 2015). The supervision POP cycle typically includes three phases: Pre-briefing, an Observation, and Post-briefing. Each phase is described in the following sections with sample questions that might be useful to discuss during each phase.

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How Does The Observation Cycle Work?

Watch the video on the left for more information on on pre-briefing and de-briefing/post-briefing in the Observation Cycle.


Then think about what tools for observing you have found useful in the past. What resources might you share to guide the 'observation' portion of the POP cycle?

Video source:

The Observation Cycle

In the sections that follow, you will explore each phase of the observation cycle.  Click on the icon to review the content, questions, and supporting documents for each phase of the observation cycle, or click "Next" to move through each phase of the cycle.


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