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Observation or shadowing

Trying to learn a new method or simply interested in how another professional handles a situation, you may consider using the observation or shadowing method. By watching a skilled performer in action you can gain a lot of ideas that you can apply later. You can also discover methods that you would not use. It is important to mention that shadowing or observation is not limited to the education field, this method works if you are a doctor, scientist, chef, mechanic, business owner, etc. Educators can improve their craft significantly by observing as many models of instruction as possible. [1] Observation can and should be used as a learning method across a lifetime. Everyone has room for improvement. "Peer observation demonstrates to students that learning is an essential part of what professors do." [1]

Richardson [1] notes that regularly observing others teach helps to facilitate dialogue about good teaching.

How to get started

Getting started is not hard; it can be arranged by a supervisor or by simply asking another educator if you can watch them in action. [2] Educators may or may not welcome this experience. Some instructors maybe reluctant to have you observe their lesson because they will feel it to be an evaluation. [1] Unless you are looking for ideas for one specific course, you will gain more if you watch another educator across a series of different courses.


Instead of simply dropping in and watching, come in to the session with a plan of what you are specifically looking to observe. [2] You may want to ask the educator you are watching if they have anything they would like to to specifically observe. By providing your notes to the educator you are watching both of you can learn from the experience. [2]

Observation session

When observing a session, try to focus on the issues where you can benefit and try to rule out the distractions. [2] Be prepared to benchmark best practices and great ideas in your notes.

Post activities

When you are done with your observation sessions, provide a copy of your notes to the educator you had been observing for their benefit. [2] Actually, educators being observe will expect to receive some type of written document back. [1]

Tips for success

Here are a number of tips that will help you be successful: [3]

  • Make a good impression - This is in terms of appearance and attitude.
  • Ask smart questions - Have at least five questions ready to use throughout the session.
  • Engage as a professional - Participate in dialogue and conversations as a professional.
  • Reflect on your experience - Reflect on your observation as soon as possible after the session, and document your observations.
  • Take notes - By taking notes, you will be able to organize your thoughts later.

"When an observer assumes the stance of a student of teaching, rather than an evaluator of teaching, great discoveries are possible." [1]

More information on this topic


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Richardson, M. (2002). Peer Observation: Learning From One Another. The NEA Higher Education Journal Retrieved from
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 TES Magazine. (2010). Observing colleagues - look, listen and learn. TES New Teachers Retrieved from
  3. Kakaday, R. (n.d.). 5 Simple Tips to Maximize Your Shadowing Experience. - the blog Retrieved from

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