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  • Writer's pictureRob Tesh

What good teaching looks like

A teacher training exercise on the relationship between observation and professional development.


Before reading, consider and discuss:

  • Have you ever seen or experienced a really great lesson or training session? What made it so great? What was great about it?

  • When observing really good teaching or training, what would you expect to see? What will you observe about the students? What are the signs that the session is working really well?

Now as you read the article, consider whether you agree with:

  • the writer's description of what happens during good and bad training sessions;

  • the writer's conclusions about what this means for observation and teacher training.

After reading, discuss your views.


Most people have never seen really good teaching. Here’s why:

This video illustrates the limits of our attentional resources. We “tune out” distractions, to the point of becoming surprisingly oblivious, when our attention is intently focused in a state of flow - as, for example, when we’re learning.

Bad teaching is easy to observe as a student. We sit there, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for something interesting to happen; we have plenty of time to see what the teacher is doing. If we know what to look for, it’s easy to see all the mistakes and missed opportunities, but even a naive observer can pick up a good sense of what the teacher’s doing with their time and attention.

In a good lesson, this is somewhere between difficult and impossible. The students are deeply engaged, focused on learning - and as a consequence, they’re simply unaware of even quite basic things the teacher is doing, that fall outside their cone of attention. The only good way to see good teaching, is to observe a good lesson from the sidelines. And how many people have had the opportunity to do that, in one of those rare-ish lessons where the teacher’s doing a genuinely brilliant job?

Lacking this kind of insight, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out how to teach well - most people don’t even know what a good job looks like. And that’s why teachers and trainers need proper training.


Finally, discuss:

  • What will you be looking for in your next observation?

  • When observing a really great lesson or training session, what do you expect to see the teacher/trainer doing?


(c) Rob Tesh 2021. Some rights reserved.

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