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OFSTED 'Outstanding' lessons

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, Jul 14, 2011.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Are you an 'Outstanding' (or near-Outstanding) Maths teacher?! If so, please read on and comment... :)

    Roughly how many (percentage-wise) OFSTED-rated 'outstanding' lessons do 'outstanding' Maths teachers actually teach?
    My understanding of the ofsted-rating system is that you need to be seen to check lots of different boxes within a single lesson. It's surely much, much easier to do this if you choose to give a one-off lesson on a topic that's 'new' to the students (say, 'exploring the scale of the solar system'), than if you were to give a lesson to year 10 students on 'the manipulation of fractions' (which there'll have encountered very many times over the previous 5 to 7 years, and which an observer is more likely to have seen done 'better').
    Or, what if you are 'just' using a lesson to give (say) one of the Standards Unit 'card-sorting' - based lessons (which typically last at least an hour). Does that mean that, by design, the lesson cannot be 'Outstanding' (or probably even 'Good')? In such (exploratory) lessons, it's not necessarily even desirable to given a clear idea up front as to the exact lesson objective (apart from a general 'identify and correct mis-conceptions associated with...'). Or to assess the learning of each student of each student at the end of the lesson (because each student may have deepened their understanding on a wide range of different points). Observers might well ask, 'how can you be certain they've made progress?', which could be very difficult to assess for every student in such a lesson. Or what about the many 'revision' lessons given at GCSE. Say a lesson largely devoted to sitting a practice paper. Would that even necessarily justify a 'Satisfactory'? (what has been *learnt*?).

    Depending upon what year groups you are teaching etc,. I would imagine that even if you are an Outstanding teacher (which I am certainly not), you would still choose to give quite a large number of lessons that, by design, probably couldn't be Ofsted 'Good' or 'Outstanding'.

    In summary, I'm asking whether 'Outstanding' teachers even *aim* to give a very high percentage of (OFSTED) 'Outstanding' lessons? Currently, my view is that the OFSTED criteria are largely artificial but that by being able to deliver an OFSTED-style 'Outstanding' lesson you are demonstrating (in a very short period of time - one single lesson) that you know, and can implement, all the techniques necessary in order to ensure excellent learning. On that basis, although artificial, I can strongly respect it.
    But if I'm meant to be giving all (or a very, very high percentage) of my lessons in OFSTED-style 'Outstanding', I'll have to change my mindset somewhat.

    Thanks,
    MMT








     
  2. I have never received anything less than a good with outstanding features and TBH its littl more than a transient beauty contest.
    Outstanding teaching an learning is 20+ lessons a week of advancing kids from September to July.
    An Outstanding lesson observation on the otherhand is a 20-30 minute snapshot from someones subjective view and delivering one is hit or miss and often not in the kids best interest.
    Many truly outstanding teachers get a satisfactory.
    100% of my lessons would get unsatisfactory if inspected without prior warning.
    95% plus of of my lessons on the otherhand are very strong examples of how to move kids on without the fluff. 5% or so are not for difering reasons.
    The day someone chases an outstanding when they are not is, IMO, the day they put the kids interests second.
    You only have to watch the teachers TV series on going from good to understanding when you hear quotes like "It has taken me 18 hours to get this lesson to outstanding"......hang on a moment..what about the other 19 lessons you have jeopordised that week to do that.............

     
  3. As an AST my teaching is classified as "outstanding" for my day-in, day-out practice which really all comes down to students making excellent progress. In terms of OFSTED I know there are certain things they're looking for and so far I've been able to pull off Outstandings. So, normally I may spend five minutes with my year 7s giving them credits for completing that week's homework which I feel is a positive and constructive thing to do. I wouldn't spend the time doing that in front of OFSTED. A few years ago I knew teachers who could pull out one card-sort or poster-type lesson, leave the kids wondering what had happened to their normal teacher, get a Good and then go back to their usual lack of effort. I don't feel that's possible now. OFSTED aren't looking for the "all-singing-all-dancing" lesson but students making very obvious progress.
     
  4. I'm still not convinced that this can reliably happen, or be assessed, in a 20-30 min observation by some theory-obsessed inspector. Surely best and most secure progress takes place over time? So does 'progress' in this half-hour context just mean evident engagement plus getting some answers right?
     
  5. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    I think you can get a handle on this by asking questions and making pertinent observations. Time spent in a lesson, and a quick scan of exercise books tells me much that I need to know. In the case of the lesson, you can tell whether students are behaving, well-drilled, responsive and focused. For the book, past learning, quality of written work, quality of marking & feedback, etc. Reinforce this with a conversation with the same student - about their progress in maths, what they think they are currently learning, how they think they are performing, what they need to do to improve, etc - can fill in many of the gaps.
    Don't forget, also, that the inspectors usually know enough from their reading of the school's performance data, to be looking for specific evidence to back this up.
    You'd be surprised how much information an observer can pick up in a short space of time.
    As others have said, the regime is such, nowadays, that it is much more difficult to paper over cracks, deliver a one-off barn-stormer. An astute inspector can see through that pretty easily.
    I tend to agree with Betamale, though. An outstanding judgement means less than a teacher who consistently delivers with their groups. That's what really counts for me. Some of the stuff we do to deliver outstanding progress, such as going through specific aspects of homework, etc, could never be classified as outstanding on an observation, but is absolutely necessary in terms of securing outstanding progress through the year.
     
  6. briceanus

    briceanus New commenter

    I think you can get a handle on this by asking questions and making pertinent observations. Time spent in a lesson, and a quick scan of exercise books tells me much that I need to know. In the case of the lesson, you can tell whether students are behaving, well-drilled, responsive and focused. For the book, past learning, quality of written work, quality of marking & feedback, etc. Reinforce this with a conversation with the same student - about their progress in maths, what they think they are currently learning, how they think they are performing, what they need to do to improve, etc - can fill in many of the gaps.

    "You'd be surprised how much information an observer can pick up in a short space of time."


    In the 3 OFSTED observations of me, the inspectors have done nothing more than sit at the back of the room making notes.....how does that measure progress?
    B

     
  7. googolplex

    googolplex Occasional commenter

    I'm not defending rogue inspectors, neither am I an ofsted inspector myself. Personal observation based on experiences of ofsted, together withe having done lots of observing around the department, and the school.
    We had a rogue inspector last time who refused to give a lesson more than satisfactory because the teacher had to hand our rulers (kids should have had their own, therefore can only be safisfactory). We complained. Our complaint was upheld.
    In all my ofsted observations, the inspectors have rolled up their sleeves, and got chatting with kids which, I think, is a good thing. I found the feedback quite fair and accurate. I'm sure there are many situations where judgements have been unfair. Just want to point out that a good inspector could be in a position to reach a reasonably balanced judgement about progress in 30 minutes.
     
  8. Thank you.
     
  9. LiamD

    LiamD New commenter

    I view any observer in my classroom during a lesson as an extra pair of hands (OFSTED inspectors included). I've had a few funny looks but no-one has ever refused to participate. Well we are suppose to use resources effectively, aren't we?
     
  10. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Thanks for such open comments. Having experimented with different lesson styles and methods, I'm at the stage of deciding exactly what type of lessons I want to give. I'm glad that I can aim to be regarded as outstanding, without giving OFSTED-style outstanding-rated lessons all the time.
    Betamale - you seem to have gone further than I was expecting. Perhaps closest to what I'm actually aiming for. Did you really mean to say that the vast majority of your lessons are technically (on OFSTED criteria) 'unsatisfactory'? [not merely, un-outstanding]. Very interesting indeed. If you don't mind me asking...are there just a one or two 'required' criteria that you routinely (deliberately) miss, which in the eyes of OFSTED would mean they couldn't give the lesson a 'satisfactory'? Or are your lessons quite 'focussed', so that you (outstandingly) hit all the criteria, but over perhaps the whole topic, rather than everything within a single lesson?

    I too want to measure myself primarily on 'the progress my classes make over the long term', rather than individually impressive lesson observations. But how do you measure excellent / exception progress and how are you so damn sure when you've achieved it!? How can you be so sure you are achieving it? Do you actually compare your students' NC-level improvements to other teachers, or the nationally-expected norms? Do you really trust that NC accurately assess the knowledge/skills you are really trying to empart?
    [These questions must surely be even harder for English teachers, where students progress in English is surely hugely influenced by what they learn / practice in History / Geography / Drama / PSHE /....Maths seems much more 'isolated' in this respect, and benefits relatively litttle from progress students make in other subjects?].

    Most importantly, what do you regard as progress and how do you measure it? Is it just improving knwledge of examinable Maths (typically, a particular exam board's GCSE)? Or truly developing students broader Maths skills and knowledge (including non-examinable). Or do you also make efforts to develop students PLTS / independent learning skills (in order to prepare them better for post-GCSE success)? How on earth do you objectively measure the latter?

    One other point I'd like feedback on. Currently, I plan very much on a topic-by-topic basis. What I mean is that I try to include a diverse range of teaching and learning styles within the teaching of a particular topic - but I do not aim to cover a diverse range within a single lesson. For example, when teachning a topic over (say) 3 - 7 lessons, I'll almost certainly inlcude some individual book work, some group work, some ICT-based learning, some card-sorting type activity, some note-taking, some mini-whiteboard work (for me, the best AfL), some reflective evaluation of student's progress, some linking to 'real world' or other topics in Maths, VAK etc. So I feel that I attain breadth, balance and inclusivity over a series of lessons,but definately not within one lesson. I don't think there's any single one of these elements that I feel must be included within a single lesson (except possibly some form of AfL). Not even note-taking (which, incidentally, some teachers seem obsessed with, and yet to me constitutes about the lowest form of learning there is).
    I feel that it's much more important to achieve (substancial) progress of all students over the series of lessons on a topic, rather than to expect to show progress of *all* students in every lesson. Some days, teeneagers aren't in the right place, or there's all sorts of stuff going on outside that distract them. I'm not too fussed by this, so long as it's occasional for each student, and they make good progress overall on the topic.

    One final point, if anyone's still reading. I'm not sure 'Outstanding' teachers as such really exist. Or that it is something to even strive for. I've observed 25 -30 Maths teachers over the last 2 years, at 5 different schools (3 rated Outstanding, one in Special Measures). Some were absolutely excellent / outstanding (in my view, not necessarily OFSTEDs). But I think they would have been far less successful if they were transferred to some other schools, with different types of students / parents / leadership. So to me, I think there's teachers that are (for a wide range of reasons, not at all due merely to themselves) are teaching outstandingly well. But they might be very average indeed at a school along the road. I've seen some that I think would be positively un-successful in neighbouring schools.
    Hence, I can't help but feel 'the education system' could do better if it placed a great deal more emphasis on 'matching the right teacher to the right post' rather than [as it has done throughout my ITT training] make out as though we should all be striving for an 'identikit' Outstanding teacher who gives OFTSED 'Outstanding' lessons day in, day out. I feel 'the system' should place more emphasis on trying to 'get teachers placed in their most appopriate school' rather than necessarily aiming to 'develop' them to be outstanding in the particular school they are in.

    Just some thoughts anyway.
    MMT


     

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