John Hattie (2009), Dean, Hubbel, Pitler and Stone (2012) and Wiliam (2011) all argue that giving and receiving quality feedback is crucial to effective teaching and student success. However, when we think of feedback we often over-rely on peer-to-peer or teacher-to-student feedback. It should also relate to the individual teacher’s practice, be it through student-to-teacher feedback, teacher-to-teacher feedback or self-reflection. It is in this regard that microteaching can provide practising teachers with a unique and powerful commentary on their practice and galvanise a school by creating a culture of feedback that requires administration and staff to define what is good teaching.
Most universities use some variation of Stanford University’s original microteaching method:
- Teach for 5 minutes (but can be longer)
- Critique for 10 minutes
- Break for 15 minutes (to allow the teacher to readjust his plan)
- Reteach to a different group of students
- Critique for 10 minutes
It is essential that any teachers who are involved in microteaching understand what effective teaching is. Therefore, before undertaking a session, it is important that sufficient time has been spent on defining what good teaching looks like and making teaching expectations visible in a rubric. While this is daunting but accepted by student teachers, the idea of being recorded and receiving feedback from peers will already make many practising teachers feel anxious as, by and large, teachers are still independent practitioners. Even where practising teachers have close personal and professional relationships with colleagues it would be mortifying to have them in their class in an observational role. This mindset stems from a prevailing culture that “teaching style” is sacred. And this notion of teaching style is often incorrectly conflated with teaching method in which any feedback on the methods used by an individual teacher are often interpreted as an attack on that teacher’s style and therefore on the teacher himself. In order for microteaching to be accepted by teachers in schools, there needs to be school-wide discussion about its purpose with an emphasis placed not on demanding teacher change but on its benefits to enhancing student understanding. What follows is a possible model.
To begin the process of introducing microteaching to your school, hold a staff meeting based on the question, “What is good teaching?” Break staff into mixed groups (by subject, by grade, by age, etc.) and have them spend sufficient time discussing this question and feeding their answers back to the group. Once groups have answers that they are satisfied with, write these four questions on large sheets of paper and lay them out on tables or stick them to each wall of the staffroom.
- What does good teaching look like?
- What does good teaching sound like?
- How is good teaching structured?
- How does good teaching involve students?
You can choose to do this activity as a Chalk-Talk where teachers can only communicate by writing down their responses and answering or developing the ideas of others in kind. You may also wish to have more ongoing dialogue and have teachers discuss their answers before writing their individual response. Once you feel you have exhausted the collective ideas of the group and you have debriefed about the findings, use these answers to create a microteaching rubric (which should be ratified at a further meeting) for school-wide use. A simple version may look like this but it is important that each rubric reflects the unique context of a given school.
How you initiate the microteaching process will determine if it will be accepted or rejected by teachers. It is important that microteaching is seen as an ongoing process for teachers and they should be eased into it. I would recommend a number of steps to be taken to help facilitate this.
- Individual teachers should record their practice and reflect on it individually. Having done so, they should put what they have reflected upon in their rubric into action in a parallel class and write a more substantial reflection.
- Small feedback teams (no more than 4) should be created in a staff meeting. Members of each team should provide and receive feedback from everyone else.
- Having been supplied with feedback on their lesson each member of the team should teach it again to a parallel class and write a substantial reflection.
- In a staff meeting teams should discuss their reflections and how microteaching has altered their practice.
- At an end-of-year (or term) staff meeting, administration should return to the question “What is good teaching?” and engage in a process of renewing and strengthening the microteaching rubric.
It is important that this process develops in phases from the individual teacher to peer-feedback to whole-school collaboration. In this way teachers are exposed to the vast array of methods and approaches employed by their colleagues. It is non-intrusive in the sense that no colleague sits in another’s classroom and unlike classroom walkthroughs, microteaching is not simply a case of giving feedback; it is both given and received. Importantly, peer feedback is only an intermediary step in the process and because teachers will teach each microteaching lesson twice, that feedback is put into action. Ultimately, each member of staff will be able to identify what is considered good teaching in the context of his own school. He will be exposed to this best practice in a practical manner and he will be given a chance to try it out in his own classroom. Because microteaching is an ongoing process it develops a culture of feedback and openness in any staffroom. Done well it should not only increase student achievement but also allow teachers to move from being independent, and therefore limited, practitioners to being the beneficiaries of the combined pedagogical talents of the whole group.
 Allen, D.W. (1967) Micro-Teaching, A Description, University Press (Stanford), 1
 Hattie, J. (2009), 112-13
 Allen, D.W. (1967), 4