"Demo Classes"

November 03, 2011

Korean high school teachers have a system of sharing/evaluating in which they instruct a "demonstration class". Since I had a spare period, my co-teacher suggested that I attend his demo class. I had heard of these going on in the past couple months but wanted to know what they were all about.

This is totally different from the designated "open demonstration classes" that parents (moms) are permitted to observe/evaluate classes (which I so conveniently missed).

So, I walked into the classroom to see 12 students. 12. My classes have upwards of 36. I'm not clear on whether this is a typical class size for the Korean English teachers, or if these students were intentionally selected to be part of the demo class.

I sat at the back of the classroom and was provided with a copy of the lesson plan (in English) as well as an evaluation form (in Hangul).

Nothing about the class was particularly special except that at the back of the class were a video camera (not sure for what purpose) and every teacher from the English department (about 10 teachers). From what I understand, these demo classes are conducted multiple times each year.

Talk about pressure.

I don't have to be put through this process, but I wonder about the benefits. I'm torn somewhere between the fear of being criticized by colleagues and the benefit of having their (potentially) helpful advice. I found it beneficial to attend the class to see what concepts are being taught in other classes and how they are being taught.

In Ontario, there is a similar system in place where teachers are evaluated but only by one individual (I think the principal). In the first 12 months of teaching, we have these evaluations twice. After 12 months, teachers are evaluated every 5 years. A person can develop some baaad teaching habits in 5 years!

While I hate the idea of being judged by a bus-load of colleagues, I think the Korean system of evaluations is really useful. Korean teachers become acutely aware of the effectiveness of their teaching styles through (potentially) constructive criticism from many perspectives. From these evaluations, teachers can improve where they need to improve and feel pride in areas they aced. Teachers who observe the demo class also reap the benefits, as I did, by seeing other techniques and either incorporating them or knowing to avoid them in the future.


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