Lesson observation is a really important tool for teacher and school improvement, as the previous blogs in this series set out. It can also be done really badly, leading to disillusioned teachers and managers who can’t go beyond tick-box feedback to add value.
This article finds some of the worst observation practices, brought to light under the #nobservation Twitter hashtag promoted by ‘Mr Pink’ (@Positivteacha). We contrast them with feedback we’ve seen from teachers we’re working with!
We’ve been sharing our research, experience and thoughts over the past few months on how best practice in lesson observation can drive a school forward, change the culture and improve teaching and learning.
Our articles will cover the following topics…
- Creating a lesson observation programme for teacher development
- 10 things to do before you observe a colleague
- 10 things to do before you are observed by a colleague
- What to do after an observation
- How to ensure observations lead to better teaching over time
- Using observations to drive wider school improvement
- The best and worst observation feedback we’ve seen
- 5 reasons teachers should be using Lessonvu video to enhance lesson observations
Observers becoming too involved with the lesson (the extreme of the ‘Hawthorne Effect’)
- ‘Once had five observations coincide with the same 1hr lesson – two staff in for book-looks, two in to give a general graded observation, and one in to check differentiation and SEN provision. Feedback? “Pupils seemed distracted.’ @_JAPickard
- ‘SLT shouting “bollocks” loudly when his laptop shut down halfway through, graded down as students were laughing.’ @StewFraz
- ‘Observer: you didn’t put a chair out for me to sit on – auto fail
- Me: speechless.’ @MrsFfriedland
‘Video observation means teachers can review far more lessons and remove the distractions provided by an external observer’ David Horton, Orwell Park School
Relying on tick-boxes and grades rather than helping the teacher improve
‘I’m going to have to not pass this one unfortunately, as you didn’t deploy the TA effectively enough” said my PGCE mentor, in a class with no TA.’ @misscnqt
‘Told my lesson was RI once, when I asked for feedback on how to improve the response was ‘book your observation in earlier because we had already hit our quota of good teachers before we made it to you!’ @miss_coster
‘I was once told that my lesson was great, but “you should have stopped the students from working and done some mini-plenaries so that the observer could see learning was taking place...”.’ @Darrenmacey
‘[ONVU Learning] gives the ownership of professional development to the teachers so they can reflect and develop their skills’, Dan Thomas, Executive Headteacher, The Learning for Life Partnership.
Using observers who aren’t able to add any value
‘A colleague was graded 4 because the (German) lesson was all in German and the observer couldn’t speak German so “didn’t know if it was any good”. True story!’ @TeachEnglish146
‘“I haven’t heard of the philosophers that you were teaching about.” Genuine piece of #nobservation from a Maths-specialist SLT who observed my Philosophy lesson years ago.’ @hugohutchinson
‘My favourite #nobservation was a colleague teaching RE – 5 pillars of Islam. The feedback was “could you have differentiated by only giving the lowers the 3 pillars of Islam”?’@Misterbodd
‘Staff are becoming more reflective and slowly evolving a language to pinpoint key moments in their lessons and the impact they are having on learning. This allows us to have a much wider discussion and become more collaborative in our approach to personal development’, Mr Morris, Head of Science, The Hereford Academy
‘My #nobservation. Told my jumper was too similar to the school uniform and I need to stand out. I’m a 6-foot-tall man in a girl’s school.’ @DavidCummins86
‘My dice were too noisy…’ @etaknipsa
“Mocksted” observer: “Your handwriting on the board and student books is unclear. Where were you educated?
Me: “The Highlands of Scotland.”
Mocksted observer: “Ah. That explains everything.” @teachgratitude1
‘Dr Sean Warren’s methodical and diagnostic approach to reflective practice allowed me to start thinking about where issues were arising and whether they [warranted] short or long-term fixes.’ Mr Morris, Hereford Academy
We hope our advice will help you prepare for a lesson observation and achieve the most positive experience from it. If you are tired of poor observation then please explore what ONVU Learning has been working on – an innovative and forward-thinking way to help teachers self-reflect on their lessons and improve their practice – it’s called Lessonvu.