Where I went wrong with my lesson observations


ONVU Learning’s Matt Tiplin, a former MAT senior leader, Teacher and Ofsted inspector, critiques traditional lesson observations in education, highlighting their inefficiency in truly fostering teacher and student improvement.


He points out that these observations often add unnecessary stress to teachers, misaligning with the aim of enhancing teaching practices. From his experience, Matt identifies the main issue as the lack of alignment between the observation’s goals and the teacher’s development needs. He suggests that simplifying the objectives and fostering a collaborative approach to setting these goals can lead to more meaningful feedback and teacher development.


Additionally, Matt challenges the effectiveness of traditional observation structures and the assumptions made about learning during these sessions. He argues that snapshots provided by infrequent observations fail to capture the nuanced and dynamic nature of teaching, leading to potentially inaccurate judgments about a teacher’s effectiveness. Matt also notes the Hawthorne Effect’s impact, where the observer’s presence influences teacher and student behaviour, further questioning the reliability of traditional observation methods.


Advocating for a shift towards more frequent, focused observations, Matt believes in empowering teachers through constructive feedback, ultimately aiming for authentic teaching and learning experiences that drive real improvement.


Lesson observation – Strategies for growth and reflection

Lesson observations, often a crucial part of educational practices, are not always as effective as intended. The traditional model of lesson observations is criticised for its inability to accurately capture the complexities of teaching and learning within the confines of a single, often short, observation period. These observations can miss the nuanced and dynamic nature of classroom teaching, potentially leading to unfair assessments of a teacher’s performance. The process is further complicated by external factors beyond a teacher’s control, such as students’ personal circumstances, which can significantly affect their behavior and engagement in a lesson. 


The article advocates for a shift towards more reflective practices, emphasising the need for observations to focus on professional growth rather than mere evaluation.

To address these challenges, the article proposes several innovative strategies aimed at making lesson observations more beneficial for teacher development. They suggest moving away from the one-off, checklist-based evaluations towards a model that values continuous reflection and self-assessment. 


Among the recommended practices is the use of video recording technology, allowing teachers to review and reflect on their own teaching. This approach not only helps educators identify areas for improvement but also encourages a more autonomous and personalised professional development process. By giving teachers control over the observation and reflection process, the model aims to foster a culture of self-improvement and peer learning within schools.