5 Tips for Handling a Negative Teacher Observation Report

A classroom observation report, which may also be referred to as a teacher observation report, is a form of peer review widely employed at universities and other institutions of higher education. It is an increasingly popular part of the movement to return a more localized sense of self-sufficiency to the American post-secondary educational system. The practice of classroom observation is also trickling its way down into junior high and high school classes, which has historically represented a gulf, as general concerns about the care of young children often leads to more frequent observance of this practice in elementary and middle school classrooms.

Many teachers don’t know how to react to a negative classroom observation report, particularly if it comes as a surprise. In many cases, however, an individual’s reaction to such a report can be far more important than the contents of the report itself. Here are five tips for handling a negative teacher observation report:

Focus on the Positive

Few classroom observation reports are entirely negative, and those that are will rarely come as a surprise. A teacher who has been the subject of an overall negative or critical report needs to focus on the positive aspects of the report, in an attempt to try and balance out the general impression which the report encourages. There are many frequently overlooked factors which are easy to take for granted; how is classroom attendance? Despite a single negative classroom experience, are the students generally attentive? What is the overall level of engagement? These are frequent points in an educator’s favor, which may go unmentioned in response to a negative peer report.

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Take Advantage of Any Assistance Offered

The fallout of a negative review in an academic situation is rarely immediate or permanent. Instead, opportunities are provided to help a teacher or other instructor, who may be having difficulties that can be constructively addressed, to get over a professional “hump.” Rarely are classroom observations engaged in without some idea, going in, of the general atmosphere and environment that is present within the particular classroom concerned. While classroom observations are often conducted in sweeps, there is also a significant amount of advance preparation, which includes the planning of solutions for potential problems that may already be expected. If you can react constructively to a negative observation report, regardless of personal feelings, this may actually turn out to be an opportunity for professional growth and advancement.

Focus on Established Educational Standards

At first glance, the suggestion to focus on established standards and rubrics seems like more of a preventative measure. It certainly is that, but it also helps to bear this in mind after receiving a negative report. One of the worst things that a teacher can do, after a poor peer review, is to go all to pieces. By losing touch with the positive behaviors you exemplify under normal circumstances, some of which may have been taken for granted, you undermine confidence in your overall ability. Whatever happens, stand by the established methods, and continue to function as you normally would.

Draft a Written Response

Most administrative faculty are receptive to a written response to a situation like this. It’s not a magical solution, but it does show strong recognition of the situation. It also fosters the idea that the teacher in question is dedicated to their professional responsibility. Much as is the case in the political world, a written letter carries significantly more weight than an oral account, creating a more lasting and indelible impression.

Don’t Panic!

Perhaps the most important piece of advice to remember with regard to a negative classroom observation report is to avoid reading too far into it. A proper report, despite being potentially negative, limits itself to observations which are relevant to the situation directly at hand. Some of these negative elements will have explanations. Others represent opportunities for personal and professional growth, but the important thing to remember is that such a report is not the hinge on which an educator’s future swings. A teacher who receives a negative review should be prepared to explain their actions, but such a document rarely represents a “last straw” situation.

By recognizing what a negative teacher observation report implies — and, perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t — an educator can address weaknesses in classroom performance, improve the clarity and transparency of their teaching methods, and ultimately improve upon their existing professional excellence.