Why it’s Time to Rethink Our Approach to Lesson Observations

Matt Tiplin, with experience as a senior leader in a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) school and an Ofsted inspector, reflects on his history with lesson observations, acknowledging their potential to significantly enhance teachers’ practices and student learning.

 

He recognises, however, that traditional approaches often fall short, feeling more like obligatory evaluations rather than constructive feedback sessions. Matt argues for a paradigm shift towards low-stakes, supportive observations that foster genuine professional growth without adding stress to an already demanding job.

 

He suggests that changing the perception and execution of lesson observations can transform them into valuable opportunities for self-reflection and improvement, rather than mere formalities. This perspective is informed by both his own experiences and a desire to see observations contribute more effectively to educational excellence.

What Can EdTech Do For Teacher Development?

The article discusses the impact of technology and peer review in enhancing teacher development at Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA).

 

Led by David Chapman, the Head of School, AUEA emphasises the importance of innovation and tailored professional development. Teachers at AUEA benefit from dedicated CPD time every Monday afternoon, with a diverse rotation covering areas like departmental work, SEND, and safeguarding.

 

The academy also encourages participation in external courses, such as NPQ and Teaching Times’ Masterclasses, and offers access to courses at Aston University.

 

AUEA’s approach has led to many staff advancing to leadership roles earlier than their peers in other schools, demonstrating the effectiveness of their development programs.

Creating a safe space for teacher development

The article discusses how one academy has adopted a low-stakes approach to lesson observations aimed at reducing teacher stress and enhancing the learning experience. Traditional lesson observations can be counterproductive, creating nervousness among teachers and impacting the natural flow of the lesson. The focus is shifted to a more pupil-centered observation, considering how students learn and react to lessons. This involves looking for “small tells” like body language, which can indicate student engagement.

 

The approach encourages teachers to take an active role in reviewing their lessons, utilising ONVU Learning camera technology. This allows teachers to reflect on their teaching by reviewing footage either alone or with colleagues. For example, a teacher discovered why some students didn’t grasp a complex math problem by reviewing the lesson footage, enabling her to adjust her teaching method.

 

The article emphasises the importance of support over scrutiny in teaching. Regular informal sessions where teachers discuss challenges, share ideas, and access shared video clips of effective strategies promote a collaborative environment. 

 

The result is that teachers view lesson observations as an opportunity for professional development rather than a stress-inducing evaluation, fostering a more effective and supportive teaching environment.

 

To view the article, click the link below and turn to pages 8-9.