Why should we be observing? What’s the purpose?
Recently, Ofsted has been making a real effort to try and rid schools of the misconception that inspectors should be grading individual lesson observations. In light of this, many of us may be questioning the importance of conducting frequent lesson observations, when in fact it has never been more important to have a robust bank of evidence that supports the quality of teaching and learning within your school.
While inspectors may not be grading individual lessons, it is important for schools to continue using grades as providing useful CPD and making judgements are two intrinsically linked processes and you cannot have one without the other. We need to remember that we do not only conduct lesson observations because Ofsted expects it, or because other schools do it. We do it because teaching is at the heart of what schools are for and as professionals we should always be looking to make improvements to what we do. Observation is one of the methods through which we assess the quality of teaching and learn how to develop further. Therefore it has to make a difference.
Good Practice and the Importance of Training
Teachers need to be confident about being observed and observers need to feel secure in their skills of observation and feedback. Schools have to ensure that all teachers are involved in the development of their Observation Programme and have appropriate training to be able to benefit from it.
A school system which has a comprehensible framework, agreed descriptors and judgement criteria, working protocols and expected outcomes clearly defined will be in a very strong position to influence teaching positively.
Any system needs to operate within an appropriate culture. A culture of shared learning, where it is normal (and expected) to be reflective, evaluative and challenging in a supportive manner has to exist. It is leadership which creates the culture and this, aligned to focused action, helps move schools towards the teaching goals and targets they have set themselves.
Schools now have to demonstrate that their observation of teaching leads to improvement and professional development.
Basically this means you have to be able to answer these questions:
- Are you observing teaching?
- Can you provide an immediate record of all observations?
- Can you provide an analysis of all observations showing:
- whole school strengths and areas for development?
- subject strengths and areas for development?
- individual teachers’ strengths and areas for development?
- Can you provide robust evidence of the impact of your actions.
- Can you show a clear link from observations to Performance Management and CPD?
Inspection and Observation
Remember, you cannot be judged as an Outstanding school unless teaching is outstanding.
During inspection much time will be spent in classrooms evaluating the quality of teaching. Observations will be variable and not follow a single approach. Many of the observations will be jointly undertaken by an inspector and a member of the school’s staff. The purpose is threefold:
- to make judgements about teaching in a particular lesson;
- to make judgements about the quality of teaching over time;
- to assess the quality and accuracy of the school’s own monitoring processes (thus judging leadership)
Ensuring Judgements are Secure
What schools must ensure is that their judgement criteria are in alignment with those used by inspectors. They should take into account the Ofsted criteria and the new Teachers Standards when developing any internal Framework for observation. This will ensure that teachers are completely clear about what constitutes effective teaching and are not confused about how or why judgements are being made.If you’re looking to improve the way lesson observations are conducted in your school, continue reading for more information on two products offered by For Schools.
Lessons Learned – Online Lesson Observation System
Our system allows your school to observe against your own framework or our own Ofsted-aligned framework, which offers comprehensive grade descriptors as evidence for your chosen judgement. Because it is online you can save comments using an iPad or Android Tablet in real time during an observation. After discussion and agreement about the judgements the results are then immediately saved on the school system.
If you’d like to book a free, no-obligations online demonstration of the system please get in touch with us on 0844 963 2242 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons Learned – The Practical Handbook for Improving Teaching and Learning
This provides a clear framework, describing the elements and characteristics of an effective lesson as well as giving guidance on feedback and the use of secondary sources in addition to observation. The handbook will ensure that there is consistency of understanding about what effective teaching looks like across the school. It will also mean that there is a high quality system of observation in place and that all judgements are reliable against Ofsted criteria.
For more information on both products see our Lessons Learned website: