Lesson observation. My response to the excellent Mary Myatt.

Ofsted is mainly interested in forming a judgement on the whole school or on a curriculum team ‘over time’. The current framework isn’t designed to judge lessons on an individual basis so the best fit a school can offer is to attempt to craft criteria for observation from the whole school descriptors that already exist.

The basic definition of outstanding teaching is “good teaching over time”. Schools need to consider how to interpret this at different times in the school year. When observing how do you factor in that you are observing the first lesson of a rotation with a new teacher in, say, science? Perhaps the teacher has been teaching 3 weeks and had one quality marking opportunity with that class?

In these scenarios, where a teacher has had little or no time with a group what should we be looking for? Should we simply judge the quality of differentiation by the teacher following their initial data analysis as an indication of a high quality response? Clearly, the “outstanding” judgement is rather hard to make without an appropriate amount of “time” to throw into the mix when attempting to ‘judge’.

There are a number of, suggested, July 2013 lesson obs “criteria” doing the rounds at the moment which attempt to offer a framework but I feel we need to take care. One of the most important things to do is to be completely clear with staff about the strengths and weaknesses of the observation process and to be clear what SLT is really trying to achieve:

1. SLT want to be clear on the typical experience of our students on a day to day basis (all of our observations are ‘no notice’ in the main). This is the most important part of the job – our staff understand the need for this and have responded professionally to this.
2. There is an issue about matching individual judgements in lessons as Ofsted haven’t issued criteria to easily judge this.
3. Even though Ofsted don’t require a lesson plan, the observer still has to be clear that there has been high quality, differentiated planning. Therefore, planning will sometimes be checked by informing colleagues in advance that this needs to be available.
4. The easiest way a teacher can demonstrate progress over time is to ensure that some data is provided to demonstrate this progress. This is really hard to do of course if observations are ‘no notice’. You can’t expect a teacher to scrabble around to print off data in the middle of a lesson. Without this observers will need to rely on book scrutiny in the lesson, conversations with students and evidence provided in the form of student recording of progress in exercise books. Data on the school’s MIS will also be checked subsequently (or before) to give an indication of progress – though this won’t necessarily offer much of a story until later in the year if you only have 3 data collections a year.
5. Most importantly, and back to Mary’s excellent post, SLT must ensure that teachers understand that the main point is to have a professional discussion to celebrate what has gone well and what can be improved into the future.

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