O’Leary M (2014) Classroom Observation: A guide to the effective observation of teaching and learning London: Routledge

The book explores the role of classroom observation in the training assessment and development of new and experienced teachers. It describes various perspectives of classroom observation and its use in different contexts. There are three sections of which the first contextualises the topic against the wider socio-political and educational backdrop in which observation is perceived as a key mechanism to teacher learning and assessment. Whist the second part focuses the use of observation as an assessment tool; the third section explores its use for professional development.

Part I comprises chapters one, two and three. Chapter one introduces the book while chapter two gives a background to the emergence of classroom observation against the backdrop of education policy and reforms in the UK.  The third chapter focuses on previous studies and literature that examines and compares classroom observation in various contexts. Part II consists of chapters four, five and six. Whilst chapter four highlights the use of quantitative and qualitative methods as instruments of observation for teaching and learning, the fifth chapter examines different models and contexts of classroom observation and how it is used as a tool for assessing teachers classroom performance. It draws on empirical  data from different studies.  Chapter six further explores the relationship between students’ achievement and teacher effectiveness and argues that there is no strong evidence between the cause and effect of the two, considering that there are other variables that may contribute to achievement. Part III comprises chapters seven and eight, the former of which focuses on the use of classroom observation in promoting expansive professional learning, while chapter eight explored  alternatives to conventional  models of observation through case studies.

The book is an excellent and rich resource for practitioners and serves the needs of observers and those involved in the observation process including, students, practising teachers, CPD coordinators, head teachers and teacher educators. It draws on a range of theories from different disciplines including; educational management, professional development and teacher assessment and identity. From a sociological perspective it uses Foucault’s work as a theoretical backdrop and provides a framework for analysing classroom observation. According to Foucault’s perspective, there is a strong link between power and knowledge which has particular resonance for classroom observation.  It draws upon some key concepts explored in Foucault’s work which include power-knowledge surveillance, discourse, and normalization thus provides a useful understanding and perception of different context of classroom observation.

It provides a critically informed knowledge and awareness about classroom observation and its use as a tool for enhancing teaching and learning and professional development. It gives a practical guidance for the use of classroom observation as a tool for professional development, and explores different typologies of classroom observation in relation to its use as a means of accessing teaching and learning. The author uses empirical evidence from case studies to explore alternatives to conventional models of observation which provides an insight into the manner in which classroom observation might be harnessed as a tool for enhancing teacher awareness and understanding of pedagogic skills and knowledge.

Reflecting on its content has helped to change one’s perception of classroom observation as a tool for teachers’ development and monitoring effectiveness. It has provided an informed awareness of current practices and future possibilities for practitioners to understand how to make use of observation in their practice. As a practitioner guide, it draws on findings from empirical data and case studies in different contexts, and a range of theories to synthesize elements of policy, practice and content of observation which is a unique feature of the book.

Key words:  Observation, classroom, professional leaning, professional development, practice, assessment

Stella Adagiri

Doctoral Researcher, School of Education and Continuing Studies, University of Portsmouth. Email: adagiristella@yahoo.com.