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What does an 'outstanding' bottom-set lesson look like, and how achievable are they?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Some niave questions, perhaps... (my lessons are beginning to be graded, and I would like some idea of what quality lessons the very best teachers actually achieve in practice)...
    I think I've seen plenty of (OFSTED) 'good' and 'outstanding' top-set Maths lessons. But I'm not sure whether I seen any such lessons for bottom-set groups. Always (even inevitably?) there seems to be at least one or two students in such a group who make inadequate progress (because, often, they a very unengaged for at least part of the lesson), and the lesson cannot therefore warrant a 'good' (as I understand it).

    It seems much easier to attain a 'good' or 'outstanding' lesson with a top set class than a bottom set. Is that right?
    It also seems much easier to attain a 'good' or 'outstanding' lesson if you're teaching a completely new topic (e.g. the immense scale of the solar system), rather than one (say on fractions, or algebra) that merely incrementally develops prior understanding, and so where 'progress' within the space of a single lesson is much harder to demonstrate.
    [I can imagine the same applying in, say, P.E. It would probably be much easier to gain an 'outstanding' for a one-off 'Archery' lesson than for a student's 1000th 'Football' lesson?].
    So if the SoW happens to require that I teach 'incremental' topics more than new ones, and if I happen to be placed with many lower ability sets, is it likely to be 'harder' to get 'good' lesson observations?
    If so, the whole grading system seems to me to be not fit for purpose. Surely what's wanted / needed is a system that measures whether the teacher and school have done the very best possible job in helping students make progress on that particular topic, and for that particular class?
    Out of curiosity, (very) roughly, what percentage of lessons from an 'outstanding teacher' are actually 'outstanding'? How does the figure vary with the ability set of the students?

  2. DM

    DM New commenter

    Realistic or not, these are some of the indicators of an outstanding mathematics lesson:
    - all students are on task all of the time
    - the lesson is heavily chunked (certainly no longer than 15 minutes doing the same activity)
    - students know their current level and can explain what they need to do to move to the next level
    - students feel stretched and challenged (this is equally applicable for bottom sets as top sets)
    - there is evidence that classwork has been marked with formative feedback
    - there is a mixture of open and closed questioning
    - there is evidence of whole class and individual assessment
    - the lesson is very well differentiated
    - students are given opportunities to discuss mathematics by working in pairs or groups
    - the learning objectives are shared with the students and referred to during the course of the lesson
    - the learning is reviewed by some sort of plenary or a series of mini-plenaries
    - the teacher is able to immediately identify all micro-groups within his or her class to the inspector

  3. Teacheri

    Teacheri New commenter

    '- students know their current level and can explain what they need to do to move to the next level'
    ...is something I find really hard, particularly when the topic can change on a weekly basis. E.g. pupils are doing ratio this week but maybe geometry next week. I might tell them that they need to improve on their division skills in order to find a single share, but the next week this won't apply. I know there are some generic skills they will always use but I struggle to meet a criteria like this in maths. Any suggestions/ help?
  4. DM, very clear list and both really encouraging and sad. For instance:
    - the lesson is heavily chunked (certainly no longer than 15 minutes doing the same activity)
    This seems to me to be self defeating. This just isn't the way maths needs to be taught or learnt. Quality time needs to be spent, by students, grappling with ideas and that takes longer than 15 minutes. (Or at least I believe it does!) I know that you can 'chunk' the material so that you start with basic ideas then move on to ever more complex ones.
    I still believe this premise is pandering to low attention spans and that part of a teachers job is to help develop students to pay attention for more than 2 seconds at a time!
  5. DM

    DM New commenter

    Coincidentally, I had exactly the same conversation with a trainee Section 5 inspector who was observing me two weeks ago.
    After the lesson, he said "You taught at the front of the class for fourteen minutes at one point and some inspectors would say that is too long without the students 'doing something'". I replied "I was aware of that but I had their full attention and we were making progress. Sometimes I think it is no bad thing to expect a whole class of learners concentrate for an extended period of time". He replied "I agree with you but remember an Ofsted inspection is a game and you need to be seen to be playing it".
  6. Maths_Mike

    Maths_Mike New commenter

    Your learning fast.

    No idea but I know very few outstanding (in OFSTED terms) teachers but the ones I do know are not "outstanding much of the time.

    I do know lots of teachers that I think are outstanding and they are outstanding quite often - but not in OFSTED terms.

    This is the third time (I think) within my recent memory that the OFSTED guidance about lesson observation has changed - how cna they be so wrong so often - who is judgeing them?

    And why do the criteria also get harder to achieve I.e. all pupils on task and more hoops to jump through?

    Personally I have a very simple view - if my line manager is happy with me and my kids get good results the OFSTED can go take a running jump and if on the one lesson they observe every 3 years I get a satisfatcory so what?

    The only lesson observation from any body that would worry me is inadequate because that is the only judgement that will ever lead to any consequences.
  7. Some great posts above.
    This is one of my huge gripes.
    If people delivered 'outstadning lessons' every lesson in maths then pupils would not learn half of what they need.
    Its a circus act filled with plate spinning, politically correct box ticking and often very little real learning.
    If you try and plan outstanding lessons for every lesson you will be out of a job by xmas as you will not keep up.
    Outstanding teaching and outstanding observations differe significantly.and average to poor teachers can do the second by killing themselves whilst naturally outstanding teachers teach solid lessons 20-2x periods per week and are noted for that.
    If you are being observed with a lower set them get them to throw big furry dice to each other whilst listening to whale music and having something on the big screen for all those who <strike>can't sit down, work and behave</strike> are visual learners.
    Whilst doing this tell them what level they are working at and explain what they have to do to get to the next level (<strike>tomorrow we will learn the 4th operation known as division if they are year 11</strike>)
    Make sure you have the legit (and there are many of them) SEN notes for your true lower set students whilst ensuring little Johnny is 'targetted' for his <strike>inability to behave or subscribe to learning </strike>BESD)
    Make sure you fire questions at them. Whilst many won't be able to do basic maths you are expected to put questions to them to promote more complex thinking....again..enjoy.
    Stop all pupils mid flow at least 3 times per lesson to talk about what they are meant to be doing and confirm that (after your disruption) they have learned something in that time period of 7 minutes and 4 seconds (even though many have learned nothing in the previous 10 years of formal education)
    Then towards the end of this very disjointed whirlwind lesson where pupils have been blown away by information overload, you then test their learning in an even further abstract way before they can display their VAK ability.
    Next plate thats about to fall off is the group work. Your task is to put potentially 5-30 problem kids into working in groups ad staying on task. They will discuss their learning, peer mark and share ideas for it to be deemed a success. The fact they usually have to sit on individual desks mute for most lessons just to control them now has to be something of the past as they manage to get through a group sessions whilst being on task.
    Great fun and many lower sets can becuase the pupils are really of a low ability and want tow work...yet many many lower sets are behaviour management sets with pupils who don't want to work.
    Now check our marking is order.....despite the fact little Jill has not put pen to paper, ensure you write something positive before giving suggestions on how he can improve in <strike>life</strike> maths.
    On the flip, day in day out you can give these pupils clear set tasks, work with them, have a high work ethic and deliver over the year rather than spending time making a wooden lesson that is not in keeping with what you do and obtain good lesson obs.
    MENA books? EAL provisions? TA notes? CATS? DATA? Target grades? PC 1-312? more paperwork...your 5m swimming badge from when you were 9? no....big fail on that one then.
    I looked through my kids work a couple of years back and could pik the lesson obs I had done as the workload was about 1/3 of its usual rate and most kids come back the next lesson wanting to do the topic again....and these lessons were classed as......yes you guessed it.
    I normally teach through the bell, dont stop to talk about what they are doing if they are mid flow and give them 55-60 minutes of hard work which they are now used to and as a result 9/10 make progress..Thats how it was done, thats when GSEs were remotely testing and we made progress.
    Bottom line...box tick but don't think this is reality [​IMG]
    Anyway, Im off to find some cross curricula-VAK-group-APP-peer learning resources for next weeks 20+ lessons

  8. I believe that you can get "outstanding" with any class as long as you have developed a good rapport with them.
    I agree with DM that chunking the lesson is critical in achieving outstanding and I think that this is even easier to do with a lower ability class since a lot of the time they need a problem to be broken down for them into more accessible sections.
    I am currently preparing a portfolio of evidence to become an AST and I believe it is vital to have evidence for a variety of classes and abilities. One lesson I recently had observed was with a Year 10 bottom set on solving equations. The feedback I received mentioned that it was clear that students knew where they were up to and how to progress to the next stage. I believe this was integral in getting outstanding.
    A lot of students get demotivated hearing that they have managed to do a typical E grade question but by seeing what the next grade is and learning how to progress they become aware of the process of improving on their understanding.
    There are always going to be challenging classes to get "outstanding" with. By making some of the criterium for outstanding/good part of your routine an important point of reaching the grade will be achieved. Take risks regularly and learn from them.
    Good luck in your future observations but remember it's more important that the students enjoy their learning that you getting outstanding.
  9. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    You seem to be endorsing the following of Ofsted rules for 'outstanding' even though you ackowledge these may be flawed or unrealistic.
  10. oops - meant plural of criteria.
    I genuinely believe that the standards that need to be met do make for an effective lesson. It is difficult to meet all of them I admit.
  11. lilachardy

    lilachardy Star commenter

    Good for you.
    You can't IMO if they arrive late (as by definition they have then not made progress every 3 minutes) or lack the concetration skills even to answer their name in the register.
  12. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    I cannot help but say, that if we walk into a class and they cannot or will not answer a register, then there is not much point in trying to teach them some maths!
    So let us proceed to a more reasonable scenario. The OP talks about lower ability, so we are considering bottom stream in a six form entry secondary school, or thereabouts.
    I will pick up on DM's post 2. There are listed 12 criteria for an outstanding lesson. I accept them all, (and in my career of 40 years have established all of them effectively), but never in a single lesson. I trust DM does not expect that these 12 criteria should be observed by OFSTED in a single lesson.
    If any OFSED inspector said to me, after observing one of my lessons, that he saw no evidence of criteria numbers blah blah blah, I would invite him to attend some more of my lessons where he/she would see these crtiteria being met.
  13. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Criteria is the plural.
    The singular is criterion.
  14. Good job I'm maths and not English then hey![​IMG]
  15. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Want to try a couple more as an extension?
    1. What's the singular of "data"?
    2. In the days of log tables there was a device called a "slide rule". It had a transparent window with a line etched in it that was slid along the scale to help find accurate readings. What was that sliding-window-with-a-line called?
  16. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    Okay. Thanks for the very many interesting posts so far.
    Let's get a bit more specific..(still talking about lower-ability sets at KS3/KS4)

    - do you agree that it's much easier to get a 'good' / 'outstanding' if the topic taught is 'new' rather than incremental? [It's then incredibly easy to *demonstrate* improvement].
    - is anyone aware of a videod lesson observation of an 'outstanding' Maths lesson for a lower-ability set? [Teacher's TV, or professionally available, or...]. I'd love to see that. Especially if it was teaching a highly 'incrementally-learned' topic, such as fractions, an aspect of algebra, etc.

    I'm trying to be more positive about the OFSTED 'requirements', and am beginning to think of them as a checklist of 'skills' processes that a good teacher should use. Although it's unrealistic (and even probably undesirable) to usually use all these in a single lesson, if you're being OFSTED-inspected it would at least demonstrate that you do have the skills to implement such techniques whenever you wish. Ordinarily, it would be more sensible and prctical to implement them over a series of lessons, but for OFSTED that's too difficult to assess.
    Is that a reasonable way to interpret, and be motivated by OFSTED gradings?
    Of course, it does rather put a lie to the fact that they're interested in the learning, rather than assessing teacher 'competence', but...
  17. Hi PaulDG, mine used to stick a bit and **** me off, so I called it the blinking cursor. [​IMG]
  18. Hi
    Everything you seem to aim for, read around and follow (and quite rightly) is the 'whats hot' in PGCS/GTP training. Teachers TV/outstanding lessons and this whole idea is not realistic or a measure of good teaching.
    I watch people turn themselves inside out to deliver an outstanding lesson once every x amount of months they are observed. This wooden, unrealistic display is even picked up by kids who say "Miss, why are you doing these strange things?"
    The other 20 odd lessons a week, 38 weeks of the year they <u>can</u> be awful teachers yet manage to be deemed 'good-outstanding' based on a 30 minute snapshot after they have briefed the kids.
    I cannot understand why people would do this.
    If you run an open door policy, invite any SLT to your room without notification and are confident in your ability then you should be backed if your obs aren't what Ofsted want them to be.
    You will learn from solid teachers over time and with experience you may come to see teachers tv as 10% good stuff, 90% manufactured, forced, unrealistic tat that doesn't apply to situations you encounter.
    Bottom sets and outstanding observations? yes...outstanding T&L 90-95% of lessons with a bottom set? not done by many and certainly far more desirable.
    It could be argued that the behaviour and ability of a top set is more conducive to getting outstanding but high ability kids may not be hardworking and may not hold up weaker teaching. So, based on the Ofsted garbage, yes easy enough to tick off everything they need and then hope the lesser members of the class arrive on time, and don't throw a chair at the inspector....but is it easy to teach these pupils long term? thats a harder skill. I for one don't enjoy it as much as more able pupils. Its not the behaviour, its "where can we go and explore maths today?" and that des give you an advantage with higher sets.
    My question is:
    "Why do you want to gain an outstanding with this bottom set for this lesson?"
    Is it for a PGCE/GTP/NQT box to tick? is it a vote of confidence among your SLT? as most observed lessons are not what people do day in day out.
    On your quote here
    "I'm trying to be more positive about the OFSTED 'requirements', and am beginning to think of them as a checklist of 'skills' processes that a good teacher should use."
    No, not in the slightest. As I stated in my last post. If youtried to teach lessons like this time in time out your pupils will not progress as its all BS and paperwork.
    Why stop pupils half way through a task and talk about their learning? When I was doing differential equations if someone said "stop we are going to talk about this as we haven't for 3 minutes" I would tell them to *** off.
    Group work is not ideal for so many sitautions...same with questionning...same with so many of the generic Ofsted garbage that doesnt fit in with maths.
    Maths is about discovery smetimes, lots of the time though its purely repetition of a task and becoming fluent.
    Linear equations for the 2nd time with year 9:
    (i) talk about it all lesson and have them do 3-4 examples and then talk some more
    (ii) Busy teaching running around, pupils doing 50-100 of them, making them more solid, some working alone, some together, no real distractions and me working with them on a board or at their table?
    Send one wins all day long and certainly doenst allow for passengers....
    Next one....why spend time telling pupils their levels every lesson? why? Do I weigh myself every hour when Im dieting? no....they have it written down and you refer and alter when required.....
    Go and watch no BS approach solid teachers over a period of time, not a forced lesson, find out why the kids and staff 'respect' (not like) that teacher....speak to them, share ideas as you can bring something to them sometimes....try it out, move away from this circus act that is not a reflection of what good teaching is....
    Do you think the first year undergrads at Warwick, oxbridge and imperial have a starter and plenary and chuck things around a sandpit because its the way to learn? do they do this in Eastern Europe, Asia? no they get on with work..
    As you can see, Im not a fan of this whole idea of what good teaching is about.....back to basics, day in day out and just accept that if you get a 'good' from Ofsted then thats a fair reflection.....
    Now...those who kill themselves for observations and then fail.........well...thats a whole different thread[​IMG]
  19. I was 'set up' by a group of delightful year 10 males last year during an internal Ofsted style inspection. They were very vocal in their decision to misbehave to get me 'into trouble'. I was given a satisfactory because they weren't making their progress. 'You can take a donkey (or is it horse? to water....' springs to mind.

    Another observation I received a good for. It wasn't outstanding because a pupil could not explain how to move from a grade C to a grade B whilst looking at interior and exterior angles of polygons. The pupil had an FFT of C and I defended myself during feedback explaining grade B would mean moving onto circle theorems .

  20. Yet many if a couple of students rock up late with no excuses, faff around getting ready you will not be deemed outstanding...your feedback (for what its worth) will state elements of outstanding T&L but an overall 'outstanding' will more thn likely not be awarded.
    If your TA doesn't turn up who helps the EAL pupils and you are unable to advance them sufficiently then again.....
    Its a hit or miss 30 minutes that seems to build and kill reputations.....
    Good honest T&L day in day out is the only measure of effectiveness IMO....

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