Making Lesson Observations Effective
Lesson observations are critical to schools making continued improvements in teaching and learning. Below are some tips to ensure that you get the best out of observations, that everyone sees them as helpful and that they have a positive impact. It is important to see them as a two way responsibility. To get the best from them both the teacher and the observer should follow some simple steps.
Prepare. It is important that both the teacher and the observer know if there is any particular focus and have a clear understanding of the criteria that are to be used. These can be Ofsted based or have been developed by the school. There should also be agreement about how long the observation is going to be, when feedback will take place and who will see anything recorded. This is also an opportunity for the teacher to share any specific information about learners or the context of the lesson – how it fits in with previous and future sessions.
Be normal. Observers should avoid being intrusive and need to be sensitive so they don’t alter the dynamics of the session. Although talking with pupils can be important in ascertaining their understanding and progress, this should not be at the expense of concentration or stop them completing their tasks. Teachers should try to act in the same way that they do every day. Putting on a show will not be helpful. Trying to be especially adventurous or being too cautious may mean that the feedback will not be as helpful or developmental.
Development. Observers should not be influenced by teachers doing things differently from how they would approach it. Good observations are a learning process for both the observer and the observed. There are real developmental opportunities for both parties.
Observers should record what they see and not be judgemental during the session. Too much reference to criteria whilst observing can mean that important events are missed. This sometimes happens when too many areas are being looked at and why an agreed focus is often beneficial.
Feedback. The giving and receiving of feedback is critical to the observation process. As such it needs to be given adequate time. Feedback should always be developmental. It should be viewed as a learning conversation between the observer and observed, so that the observed is able to understand what they have done well , what they need to improve and, most importantly, how they could go about making those improvements.
It is important that all staff within a school have a clear understanding of the criteria that make up good and outstanding lessons.
Although judgements have to be made, it is the development points that are vital.
If observations are an opportunity for both observers and the observed to learn, schools and departments should try and develop practices which are not always top down.
In making overall judgements about the effectiveness of a teacher, sources other than just observation should be taken into account such as work samples, pupil voice, planning and data.