In recent years, I have felt the Observation process was in need of some changes.
We had number judgements in our school. At the start of last year, as an Associate member of SLG, I presented research findings and we moved to a system where numbers went, and strengths and areas of focus existed.
I also moved to create opportunities for staff across Faculties to follow up and ‘action’ their areas of focus that arose in an observation. By pairing up teachers with ‘questioning’, for example, as a strength, with another teacher who had ‘questioning’ as an area of focus, and encouraging them to meet up and discuss strategies, if not see a strategy in practice, then this follow up could be timely and productive. The system needs refining and further promotion but the basic premise was one that increases cross-curricular collaborative teaching reflections, and encourages all teachers to not allow their ‘area of focus’ from an observation to fall down the ‘To do’ list!
Back in my Faculty this year, I’m intrigued to trial the broadening of the post-observation conversation to a wider discussion of how methods and activities utilised in the single lesson have panned out over time: over the course of the module, over the course of the term, with that class.
What do I want to achieve?
- A stronger than ever perception within my department that the one-off lesson must be typical, and not a showpiece containing anything out of the ordinary.
- A greater opportunity for the teacher being observed to be able to discuss/justify some of the strategies used in the lesson, and how these have worked, and been sustainable over time.
- A reassurance that the single observed lesson is not the only thing, as an observer, I am focusing on, and that I am interested in the teaching strategies employed over time.
- Less pressure on the teacher being observed to ‘perform’ above and beyond their lesson norm.
Some possible ‘new broader direction’ questions:
Was today’s use of the starter, that wasn’t engaged with, characteristic of how the students normally respond, or was today’s response a one-off?
The students were very familiar with the success criteria used today. What methods have you used to get them to this level of confidence?
This student (a well known behavioural concern) was perfect for you today. How has he/she been over time? What strategies did I not see today that have got you to this point with him/her?
This student was demonstrating work of a higher calibre than I thought possible last year. What steps have you taken since September to move him to this point?
This method is an excellent way of differentiating. Is this sustainable though? Have you been able to implement this level of personalisation on a regular lesson to lesson basis?
It’s a pretty straight forward change towards offering a less pressured observation, a method of engaging with the ‘bigger classroom picture’, something already encouraged by Ofsted and sought by SLG across the country, and I think it will prove an effective tweak.
Staff feedback at the end of the year will inform me whether this has been an impactful change or not.
Thoughts welcome, as ever!