Grandma sucks eggs.
I have yet to meet a teacher who does not want to teach well nor to improve their practice.
Making the most of the current teaching force is essential, if we are to maximise outcomes. Dylan Wiliam 4.2.13 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEaH8UBchD0
Anyone who goes into a classroom to undertake a lesson observation is in a delicate position. By virtue of status, a member of SLT or MLT or possibly an Ofsted inspector is likely to be in a superior position to the observed person. While we talk as a profession of formative and summative assessments within Learning and Teaching, there is a likelihood that the outcome of the observation will be seen as a summative narrative, with feedback and a discussion based on the developing agenda created by the outcomes. However, unless the observation has to lead to a specific judgement, it should be seen primarily as developmental, based on visual evidence and feedback, with a colleague capable of coaching or mentoring as needed.
The observation and note-taking skills of the observer are critical to a positive outcome and future relationships for both parties. Equally, there is a need for the observer to put aside their own practice during the observation to avoid judgements being made based on a “deficit” model. A feeling of “I’m not as good as you.” may already be present, as far as the observed is concerned.
There is a need for a coherent framework within which the observation and discussion will take place, the most obvious being the teaching standards. It is essential that both observer and observed are fully aware of the different aspects of the standards, both in terms of scope and depth, as an overall graded judgement may be made that describes the current teaching ability.
Teaching standards grid form, based in ITT standards
This arrangement of the standards highlights a process approach, whereby the teacher, displaying professionalism, has good or better expectations and status with the students, allowing teaching to take place. Order and organisation underpin the teacher approach, in planning& resourcing, subject coherence and relations with supporting adults, so that everything works in favour of positive outcomes. Planning or background organisation should show expectations of outcomes across all abilities.
Order and organisation, narrative sharing.
The “teacher bit” or input, starter, introduction, or some other beginning concept, is totally in the hands of the teacher. This is the part that should be a significant feature of the lesson, as it seeks to hook the students and prepares the ground for them to engage with ideas. This part is more likely to be didactic, but with elements requiring dialogue, discussion, questioning.
Setting challenge for students is a more subtle aspect of teaching and learning, as it encompasses decisions around differentiation and expectation. Whatever the detail of the tasking, it should be matched to a known learning position, with sufficient challenge to take the learner further. The need for support in learning should be acknowledged, as achieving a task with support still requires demonstration independently, if it is to be counted as a capability.
Think and adapt.
Assuming that the students are now engaged in tasks, the essential elements of the standards come into play, assessment and adaptation. In many minds, assessment is something that is done at the end of the process, but, having created expectations, the teacher should be engaging with the learning behaviours that demonstrate ease or difficulty of task, in order to maximise the outcomes for each group. Scanning the room, engaging with students, asking clarifying questions, challenging further as appropriate are all tools within the teacher toolkit.
If necessary, the teacher should be prepared to modify, adapt or even completely rethink the lesson, depending on the needs of the learners and the unfolding evidence from the lesson..
This is probably the Catch 22 aspect of a lesson. Standard 6 suggests "thinking on your feet", spotting learning behaviours that cause concern, for different reasons, and doing something about that, adapting, standard 6, as needed. Not spotting, or not addressing issues is likely to lead to a failed lesson, as vulnerable learners will have been ignored
There should be reflective time built into the lesson, not necessarily just at the end, as a whole class or in groups, to ascertain student clarity of purpose, issues arising, refocusing as needed, so that the learning journey can be positive. Maximising outcomes is the ultimate aim of the lesson. The learners should have been aware of the lesson expectations, understand what they had to do and to actively engage with the activity. Judging the quality of the outcome should be personal, supported by pees as appropriate, as well as the teacher. Sharing positive outcomes can help this.
Getting a feel for the teacher view of the lesson is an essential start point. It would be useful if the teacher was able to undertake a reflective self-assessment before the discussion, including highlighting a version of the teaching standards and to be able to support their narrative with a rational argument. It is an indicator of a reflective practitioner if the teacher can identify the elements of the lesson which went well and those that could have been better. www=what worked well and ebi=even better if are useful acronyms.
Starting with the outcomes of the lesson, seeking to unpick the different end points, tracking back to expectations, then to the planning and background thinking, ensures a clear picture for both participants.
The observer should give an unbiased recount of the lesson, significant strengths as well as areas for development, within a holistic view of learning and teaching.
The observer should avoid giving a single issue improvement, such as assessment, without clarifying why this is an essential development point, ensuring that it can then be put into all aspects of practice.
Both observer and observed should be clear about the purpose and outcomes of the lesson observation. It should be clear where the records are kept and who has access to them, as well as any mechanisms for asking for a review, but hopefully not for complaint.