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How do you do lesson observations?

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by brazenhussy, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. How do other schools organise lesson observations? We use some old proformas which I feel are too different from what inspectors will use. They basically don't do much more than point out 'areas for development' and don't come to a proper judgement. I have been saying that these are useless if we are to show that we are monitoring and improving teaching. We have one problem case in my department that is close to being a capability issue but the forms we use don't get near the problem. I don't know how to tackle this because the head doesn't really want to upset anyone, but I have been given the job to sort this out and don't really know where to start. I don't want staff to see me as an Ofsted nark.
  2. If you PM me your e-mail address I will send you our criteria
  3. Done it!
  4. Sorry. They have messed up my email account and I cant get it to receive mail any more.
    Try janemarshall@email.com
  5. Sent it! [​IMG]
  6. Thanks 05dan10. Much appreciated.
    I like the checklist particularly because it translates the Ofsted areas into practical classroom issues. It is also likely to support a good discussion with the person observed about teaching and learning, i.e. it is a good sheet to encourage professional development. It is helpful to compare this to ours. But I think ours too has the problem that it simply invites ticks or crosses rather than an evaluation in terms of the 4 Ofsted grades. I am looking for a way to improve he response so that it is more evaluative. I am still not sure that using these forms would give an overall grade for a lesson that Ofsted would necessarily agree with. It needs really to have grade descriptions I feel. Could using this form ever result in a lesson that would be judged as inadequate? I suppose having no ticks would suggest that. I aim to work on ours further and this is very helpful. I will post something back if I come up with something better.
    Do other SMT members feel that it would be wrong to have a checklist that stated the Ofsted grades and had a box that said 'Inadequate' that could be filled in if necessary? Or is that a step too far?

  7. talisman

    talisman New commenter

    We use the Guidance for Teaching and learning - which I think comes form OFSTED (could be wrong, but fairly sure) As DH, we had a seminar on using the guidance which was very helpful - I then replicated this to teachers at my school, trying to show them how to move from Good to OUtstanding in their teaching and learning.
    In Lesson Obs, I use the guidance and highlight sentences/phrases when I see them as well as making notes - this then forms the basis of my feedback - tht way I feel I have evidence of what I have seen as well as my overall judgement

    Hope that is helpful. [​IMG]
  8. Thanks talisman. I tried to find this by Googling. I didn't find the exact document but I found lots of other lesson observation forms used by schools. They mostly suffer from the same problem. If they don't mention the 4 Ofsted grade categories then I am now feeling bold enough to say that they are probably of little use. If the forms dont exemplify the grades then they are also of little help. They now need to focus on just the four areas of achievement, teaching, leadership and behaviour so anything else there is a distraction. Many forms are still about development, e.g. they have a 'focus' like assessment. I am concerned that we should be able to do formal lesson observations that are carried out as Ofsted would do them. I want to show that leaders including HODs are demonstrating leadership by effectively evaluating teaching. Because observers in school aren't inspectors they need very clear prompt sheets. The head needs to be able to total the grades knowing that the observations have been carried out in the same way.
    I haven't seen anything yet that meets these requirements. Some get close but are a bit out of date. Does this mean that every school does this badly? This was my half term job but I am still nowhere close to getting what I need.
  9. colorado

    colorado New commenter

    Sorry, don't mean to hijack but I need to ask...is it the norm for observed teachers to receive written feedback following lesson observations?
    In a nutshell - Primary school, all teachers have had two obs-one each term this academic year. Oral feedback given immediately but no written record kept. The NUT website recommends written within 5 working days.
    What do you think?

  10. Hi,
    Could I be cheeky, 05dan10 - would it also be possible to have a copy of the information about observations??
  11. Please forgive a company response, and please be reassured that our draft lesson observation schema is free for schools to use.

    The schema can be seen and downloaded from www.4matrix.org/lesson
    It was developed as a result of a request from schools for a way to evaluate lessons that make exact use of the 2009 Ofsted evaluation citeria.
    The materials listed here are the first draft. They have since been improved and condensed as a result of feedback, but we would be delighted to receive further comments.

    The schema may look bulky but it is comprehensive and in practice quick to complete. Observers are also likely to arrive at a judgment which would be exactly that which an inspector would come to.

    This schema is being built into our 4Matrix application which will populate the printout with contextual data prior to a shared observation. For further details please visit www.4matrix.org 4Matrix is a high-impact, low-cost evaluation system for use at KS4. There is a free trial available.

    Thanks for reading.
  12. Sorry to appear controversial, but I watch hundreds of lessons in different schools each year. The tick box approach to lesson observations rarely works. What happens is that the observer just looks for boxes to tick and doesn't observe objectively. Teachers then modify their teaching to gain maximum ticks, which in turn risks turning them into automatons.
    The simplest methods work best. Get the evaluation schedule and a big pair of scissors. Find the 3 criteria for progress, T&L and behaviour and cut them up putting all the outstanding together, good together etc. When observing the lesson, just watch, don't write or tick boxes. Afterwards look at your 3 criteria and find a best fit, writing a commentary on how pupils learned in the lesson - don't focus on teaching, just the learning. Give examples ('at that point 4 pupils were off task' - that sort of thing) to prove points. In general make a point and give an example.
    Observing lessons is complex so I've just scratched the surface here, but hopefully it gets you started.
  13. I am glad to see this subject come up because I think it is a problem area for most schools. Unless you have been trained to observe lessons like inspectors do then you will need something very specific to guide you. I would say that this is one of the least satisfactory aspects of leadership. There are so many examples of teachers who have been observed who feel deflated because the feedback was vague and the judgement was unclear. The reason for this is that the observer is unclear, not too sure what to say, but not wanting to say that they don't really know what the judgment really is or why.
    robby64 has done so many observations that he can just observe, but most people will need something fairly detailed to refer to. There is nothing wrong with a checklist. What robby643 describes that he cuts out and uses is a checklist. All he is saying is don't stare at the checklist, look at the lesson. Once you have used the checklist a few times this is what you can do. You don't want to be sitting there either with a blank sheet of paper writing statements or else you will miss what is going on in the lesson.
    The problem is getting the right checklist. The company one in the last but one post is the sort of thing I need, only it is too big and distracting as it stands and too many separate things to think about. I would prefer some sets of statements to match the lesson to.
    The advise to only focus on the learning can't be good advice because inspectors have to evaluate the teaching. Better advice is for everyone who is going to be observed to study the list of the criteria for good teaching so that are aware of what Ofsted will look for.
  14. becktonboy

    becktonboy New commenter

    I've just blogged on this issue

  15. The last contibutor's blog is worth a read. It provides all the reasons why Lesson Observations are the Achilles' heal of school Leadership. It is a subject that seldom features in educational management courses, yet it is the essential quality assurance mechanism for schools. Unless school leaders have a robust and fair system for evaluating teaching then the job will always be left to Ofsted. This is far worse for many reasons. For example, staff will be uptight because they are not used to being observed and unfamiliar with the criteria. Also, observation during an inspection will always be a sampling exercise. If you had spent days preparing lessons it is far worse to get to the end of an inspection having not been seen than to have been seen.
    The attitude of the author of the blog, whilst being understandable - no-one likes to be monitored - is not reasonable. In many schools, this reluctance to demonstrate one's professionalism means that observations may be infrequent and cursory. If the observed is always going to assume the observer is looking for fault then the outcomes are rarely going to be useful for development purposes, or for the head to have a view of 'The Teaching' across the school that Ofsted requires them to have.
    I have seen LO working well in schools but it takes time to set up. The starting point is an observation schedule which needs to be based on the Ofsted criteria. The next step is a staff session when it can be discussed. A video showing 10 minutes of two lessons should be shown and teachers asked to grade what they can and discuss the issues. Then it needs training for the observers provided by someone with Ofsted experience. This should include all subject leaders and all SMT members. The next step is that teachers are asked to use the schedule to grade their own lessons and discuss their findings with a colleague. Then departments should organise practice observations. The observers should be given a note on the objectives and features of the lesson and details about the groups of pupils to look for when judging progress. Time should be given to discuss the outcomes - not as a judgment given by the observer - but reaching a consensus on how the evidence would lead to a judgment.

    In schools where this has happened, LO tends not to be seen as threatening, but as a shared professional experience. Such an approach naturally leads to professional development without improvement being seen as a confrontational issue. Where inspectors can see evidence that a system like this has been established they are more likely to take note of the school's evidence about the range of judgements on teaching.

    The fact that a school has a system like this also makes it very easy to come to a conclusion that this is an outstanding school. It is most unlikely that an outstanding school would not have good systems like this, especially for something as important as the monitoring of teaching.

  16. Done it! [​IMG]
    Sorry for the delay in sending it!
  17. becktonboy

    becktonboy New commenter

    Thanx for reading the blog angie.
    A few points: my 'attitude' towards observation is rather a judgement arrived at over a long time, shaped by increasingly bad firsthand experience, added to by dealing with often tearful colleagues whose self-esteem and professional confidence had been trashed by inept observations and crass feedback. I fully acknowledge both here and in the blog that my own experience is not necessarily that of others but it has given me a perspective shared by others and a valuable reminder of the dangers of relying on lesson observation and the people who conduct them.
    My views are certainly reasoned, as to whether they are 'unreasonable'? in the light of my experiences I would say not.
    It is very nice of you to 'understand' where I'm coming from but you don't if you think my views derive from a dislike of being monitored, that is a fact of life. I have an extreme distaste for the way I and many others have been monitored and the feeble justifications given in the course of that monitoring.
  18. Lesson observations need to be put on a much more professional footing. It is the acid test of good leadership to get this right. If LOs take place without having taken the trouble to set things up as I have described then school observations can create the same anxiety as when Ofsted look at lessons. Unless they use Ofsted criteria and are supported by standardised procedures they will be dismissed by inspectors who would otherwise be grateful for such key evidence that school quality systems are working.
    It is surprising that this subject is not better dealt with within NPQH. It would be one of my major criticisms that academic studies like the work of Kolbe take preference over something so central as the quality issue of supporting good teaching.
    The range of different proformas, guidance sheets and checklsts (nothing wrong with checklists) that schools use show that this is a major weakness in school leadership. My work with secondary headteachers simply confirms that it is an area of neglect and a major weakness when schools are inspected. Schools should take a look at how they use their AHTs. One of them should have a key responsibility in this area and be orchestrating the arrangements that I described previously. If you already have this role then you probably have much to do.
    I know that most headteachers find this a difficult area. Done badly they risk alienating their staff or appearing to be an autocrat. But not doing it well is far worse in its implications, especially in terms of the career of teachers who deserve to have their professional skills recognised and rewarded. The alternative is what we have now - everyone hating being observed.

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