Evaluating Modes of Teacher Preparation: A Comparison of Face-to-Face and Remote Observations of Graduate Interns

Summer, 2011

Source: Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, Vol. 27 No. 4, Summer 2011,
p. 154-164.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study compared between two modes of teaching observations: face-to-face (in-class) observations and synchronous remote observations of graduate interns in a large southern university at USA.
The authors evaluated the differences between the two observational modes and whether these differences affected the quality of teacher preparation.

The authors considered the following questions:
1. Are remote observations equivalent to face-to-face observations?
2. Are there differences in the two processes?
a. If so, what are these differences?
b. Do these differences affect the quality of teacher preparation?

During the pilot semester for The Remote Observation of Graduate Interns (ROGI),
two graduate interns located within the same school system voluntarily agreed to participate in the project evaluation.
One intern was a lateral-entry teacher currently employed at a middle school, and the other intern was a student teaching at a high school.

The authors collected data from graduate intern teaching portfolios and post-conference meetings.
A graduate assistant conducted an interview with each graduate intern following the internship experience, asking the graduate interns to provide thoughtful answers to 26 open-ended questions.
Experienced university supervisors, content methodologists, and site-based personnel conducted the observations of graduate interns.

Discussion and Implications

The data suggest that both observational processes are not equal but are comparable instruction. In other words, each mode of observation has both benefits and limitations, but neither process was overall a more effective method of evaluating the quality of teaching.

For instance, face-to-face observations allowed the observer more autonomy over what was observable as well as clear views of facial expressions.
However, the process was more intrusive to the graduate interns and presented a staged lesson that was not truly reflective of teaching practices and student behavior.

ROGI, in contrast, was less intrusive and presented a more authentic view of teaching and learning; however, it did not allow for full disclosure of the entire classroom at all times, and facial expressions were less vivid.

Furthermore, face-to-face observations provided an environment in which student voice and participation were easily understood.
However, when students were working in small groups or independently with the teacher, student voices were not distinguishable.

In contrast, ROGI with the use of a wireless microphone provided opportunities to hear teacher–student and student–student exchanges in both small groups and individual interactions; yet, in the whole-class setting, student input was difficult to understand.

The authors conclude that, as both observation processes are comparable and effective teaching can be measured either face to face or remotely, the added layers of the evaluative process and the potential cost benefit of technology-mediated observation is a justifiable alternative, challenging traditional perceptions of teacher preparation.

Updated: May. 08, 2013