Does lesson observation support professional development?
Lesson observation is an essential tool in the pursuit of high-quality education outcomes. For many schools, in the classroom observation has not been possible during the pandemic. The return to full time schooling has been fraught with extra pressures and calls on the time of everyone which may mean observation of learning has taken a bit of a back seat. So, now is the time to look again at the purpose of lesson observation.
- part of the performance management process
- a formalised approach to assessing the quality of teaching and learning
- linked to pay and promotion within the school system
or is it
- a shared opportunity to support individual teachers to continuously improve
- a part of the CPD strategy that allows teachers to observe each other and reflect on their practice
- an integral element in creating cohesion within subjects and across the wider curriculum
Creating a culture where lesson observation is for teachers to learn from each other, reflect on their own practice and that of others, deeply commit to setting their own goals for incremental change and improvement and welcome the feedback from colleagues or line managers who genuinely have more or different experiences to share is powerful.
Lesson observation and answering ‘deep dive’ questions about the curriculum
‘Deep dive’ scrutiny’ is high on the agenda for all those senior leaders who may be due an OFSTED visit in the not- to- distant future. For many who have already been inspected they will know the importance of having the right answers about the curriculum across a range of subjects and within a whole school context.
There is an imperative to ensure that all subject and middle leaders have created profound opportunities for their teams to be able to articulate how well pupils are retaining and deepening knowledge over time. Teachers must have the evidence that they are building on pupil’s prior learning and have grasped basic concepts before moving onto more complex ideas. There must also be evidence that lessons are differentiated so that opportunities to access and retain knowledge can be the privilege of all learners whatever their starting point.
What comes through from much of the feedback from OFSTED reports, speeches and briefings is that they are seeing a cumulative lack of continuity across different subjects. Where there is an intense look across the curriculum, subject leaders and teachers are not consistent in their understanding of how curriculum intent is translated into implementation. There is a significant emphasis by OFSTED on how well the curriculum is planned to ensure that pupils remember and retain important knowledge that can be accessed across a range of contexts.
Developing a strategy where lesson observation is part of a process of ongoing learning for all those with a pupil facing role will create the culture where conversations explicitly define how pupils are learning and the depth of knowledge they are accessing. Professional learning conversations that flow from lesson observation will also support a collaborative review of how learning is assessed to ensure that knowledge is retained as a springboard for deeper understanding. Positive change emanates from giving teachers a collective opportunity to share and disseminate good and outstanding practice.
Lesson observations shine a collective light on the quality of education
Before we can begin to use lesson observation as a vehicle for continuing professional development and provide an opportunity for the pursuit of challenging reflection and feedback all those involved need to have a profound understanding of the indicators that define high quality education. They are set out in the OFSTED Handbook for Schools, so that is one place to begin to define high quality. However, there are other indicators that provide a broader definition and build in many other factors linked to learning.
Have a look at UNESCO’s paper, Defining Quality Education. Read around the research from the Education Endowment Foundation. Join us for a live webinar where we look at the seven principles of quality assurance that influence positive change and ensure all staff play their part in the delivery of high quality outcomes across the whole school or college. Book our course Quality Assurance Strategies for Outstanding Curriculum Implementation and Impact for expert guidance and all the materials, research and resources you will need to develop a quality assurance strategy across your school or college.
The curriculum is the focus within the OFSTED handbook and creating conversations linked to observing learning in the classroom will build consensus and create the evidence that all staff are working together to understand what high quality education outcomes look like to an external observer as well as an internal observer. Learning in this way provides individual teachers with the opportunity to observe pedagogy, focus on cognitive science, build a collective view of how well the curriculum is sequenced, understand where there are connections across the curriculum and share how literacy, numeracy and metacognition are essential to the learning process everywhere.