Time Lapse video and Lesson Observations

It has been a while since I last blogged, a fact which has found me disappointed in myself however more on that in a future post.   For the moment I find myself returning to blogging as a result of a recent tweet which introduced me to the LapseIT app.

Today I found myself, having been introduced to the app, deciding to try it out so, much to my wife’s bemusement, this afternoon I bluetak’d my mobile phone to a window to time lapse video the sun going down over the land and housing to the rear of where I live.  The results were a little disappointing due to the fact the app sucked the battery life from my phone resulting in just over 1 ½ hours worth of real life being compressed into 10 seconds or just over 140 frames.  But I digress….

The video despite being disappointing got me quite enthusiastic about the app and the ability to compress time.   This idea of viewing the sum of the events which occurred across 1 ½ hours within a 10 second video got me thinking.   An initial idea was to time lapse video a professional development session and then to replay it at the end of the session as a brief way to recount the activities of the session.   Then it hit me:  The parallels between time lapse videoing and lesson observation as a method to judge teacher quality.

Across the educational world, teachers still often have their ability judged based on a handful of “formal” lesson observations of maybe up to an hour in length.   So that’s four hours of teaching if they are observed four times.   Using the timelapse video analogy that would be a four hour video to watch.    In terms of real time if we consider that a teacher may teach 5 hours per day (and this is a very rough estimate so apologies to the many teachers who teach more than this) over around 180 days (again another rough figure) that equates to a real time period of 900 hours.   So using the time lapse video analogy we get a ratio of 1:225 meaning that for every single hour of formal lesson observation undertaken a teacher teaches another 224 hours which are not observed and are not counted.   This clearly seems to illustrate the flaw in reliance on “formal” lesson observations for judging the quality of teaching.     Judgements of teacher quality therefore need to involve data gathered from a number of sources beyond just these “formal” observations.   Now this need for other data to be considered has been discussed by a number of others in their blogs such as the discussions of @teachertoolkit (read two of his posts here: The role of lesson observations and Can observers spot good teaching ) and as such I will not repeat what others have already covered.    I will leave this post here.   If lesson observation is akin to time lapse video then we are cramming one years work of teaching into four hours!!!    How can we consider this to be an acceptable method to judge the quality of teachers?

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