Pre-Conference Questions

By using a short set of questions as a launching point for the discussion in your pre-observation conference,  you can really get a great feel for your teacher's planning/Domain One, as well as what you are going to see in Domains Two and Three. Let me take a couple minutes to go through the questions you should be asking and how they relate back to the subcomponents in Danielson. To give credit where credit is due, these questions come courtesy of ASCD iObservation.

A couple notes on the management of these.  They should run between 10 and 30 minutes averaging about 15 minutes tops.  Also, I don't see why some of this (most?) couldn't be done on paper.  If your teacher could answer these questions before you even met with her, that would speed up the actual meeting even more.

So, on to the Pre-Observation Conference...

1.  Briefly describe the students in the class. I know it sounds like a really basic start, but it will let you get at Component 1b.  Let the teacher describe the abilities and special needs of her students.

2. What are your goals/objectives/learning outcomes for your students? How will
You communicate the objective(s) to your students? Remember the important question is not, "What did you teach?" but rather, "What will they learn?"  What is your priority content? What Standards will this lesson address.  This is the teacher's rationale. Posting an Essential Question should ring a bell. This will address 1c.

3. In what ways are the goals/objectives suitable for this group? You can use this question to address to different subcomponents.  Both 1b and 1e are touched on.  Your teacher is not explaining a knowledge of students but should rub up against how this instruction will be design around this particular group.

4. What challenges do students typically experience in this area and how do you plan to anticipate and address these? Again 1b and 1c.

5. What will you do to cognitively engage these students? What will the students be doing? What will you be doing? First let's stress the importance of cognitive engagement. Students who are busy with a worksheet are not necessarily cognitively engaged.  As well, students who are deep into the conversation might be off-topic as well.  You are looking at 1e here and it will give you some insight into what you will observe in Domains Two and Three when you are in the classroom. I also like the 2nd and 3rd questions here.  When you script the observation, you are recording objective evidence. What did the teacher/student do and what did the teacher/student say.

6. How does your grouping support student needs and the desired outcomes for the lesson? This questions hits on 1b and 1e and should reflect what you'll observe in Domains Two and Three.

7. What materials and/or resources will the students be using? Easy enough- 1d.

8. How do you plan to assess student progress toward the objective(s)? What formal/informal procedures will you use? Attach any tests or performance tasks with rubrics and scoring guides. In the DDI era of pre, post, and interim assessments, this is key. No more "teach, test, and hope for the best." You want to see evidence of those dipsticks- the checks along the way.

9. How do you plan to use the results of the assessment? This really goes directly to Domain Three.

10. Is there anything else you would like me to specifically observe during the lesson? 

One small aside: it's worth noting how nicely Domain One hangs together narratively from 1a to 1f.  You have to know your content and then know your students.  Next you have to set your outcomes- what are my goal (UbD anyone?).  Ok, you have your goals, so what resources are at your disposal to accomplish them. With content, students, goals, and resources in mind, what is the instruction going to look like and how will I assess learning?

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