Pilot study of digital classroom observation with student teachers in Irish primary schools

Classroom observations are the most common source of evidence used in teacher evaluations. Critics of this method argue, however, that in-person observations do not accurately reflect teacher capacity on a given day. Other studies have shown how some teachers find the process of observation stressful and can impact on teacher behaviour. Internationally, there has been a growing recognition of the need to rethink how we assess teachers. In particular, there has been a shift towards the use of digital technology to help shape and improve conventional methods of classroom observation with recorded lessons. A significant part of the evaluation and assessment of teachers in Ireland is through in-person classroom observations. During initial teacher education (ITE), student teachers complete a period of ‘teaching practice’ where classroom observations are carried out by staff from the higher education institutions responsible for ITE. This pilot study by the ESRI and Hibernia College examines the impact of using video recordings of teaching practice on teacher assessment and evaluation. The research will compare the experiences of two groups of teachers. The first group will use digital observation for panel assessment (most likely, in the form of written feedback) and for self-assessment. The second group, the control group, will be based on the traditional model of evaluation by an evaluator who is present in the classroom. Comparing the two modes of assessment will allow for comparison of the types of ‘grading’ used for student teachers and measure levels of consistency across individuals versus panel assessment. Results from the pilot study will provide a valuable evidence base for a potential new student teacher evaluation model. This research is funded by Hibernia College.