Having experienced generally very positive feedback from staff about the first round of observations that took place over the Autumn term (our first without grades and using our own Challoner 10 as the framework for discussion, rather than Ofsted criteria), we are now keen to get moving on the next round. And so, at the start of a twilight intended for developmental work in departments, we brought all teaching staff together to outline how the next round will work.
The general principles are the same as for the first round: the observations will be developmental (i.e. they won’t be graded and discussion after the observations will be focussed on reflective questioning and dialogue rather than ‘feedback’ per se) and we want to support teachers with everyday practice rather than one-off showpiece teaching.
At the same time as this, we want to create the opportunity for Subject Leaders to take some ownership over the process in terms of setting the agenda, in order to try and find opportunities for the observations to support departmental development priorities as well as the priorities of each individual teacher. Furthermore, we want to involve staff at all levels of the schools with the actual visiting of each others’ classrooms.
In order to do this, we are setting out to observe a department at time, seeing each member of the team on several occasions for 15-25 minutes at a time, as part of a series of Learning Walks, rather than observing each teacher once for a full lesson. The hope is to be able to schedule the Learning Walks to ensure that each team member is seen once with a priority group (the priority having been determined by the Subject Leader and their team), as well as visiting each teacher on a further couple of occasions on a more ‘impromptu’ basis. Each Learning Walk will be led by a member of the L&T team plus another member of the department.
In addition to identifying themes to be discussed with each class teacher at the end of the cycle, the intention is also to use the opportunity to develop the co-observer, partly in terms of their own noticing skills, but also in terms of their career development. For example, if I conduct a Learning Walk of a department and take the Subject Leader (or someone who is realistically aspiring to middle leadership) with me to co-observe, then the discussion with that person might probe their thoughts about what to raise in discussion with the class teacher afterwards, and how to go about doing so in order to stimulate a reflective dialogue (rather than just a retelling of events observed with some sort of judgement placed on it). If the co-observer who is on the Learning Walk with me is a newly- or recently-qualified teacher, the discussion may revolve more tightly around what we are seeing and the merits of the approaches being observed.
It seems like a good model to run with having already observed everyone once formally (and alongside regularly seeing staff across the school on the occasional whole-school Learning Walks and on our SLT Tours (which all of SLT are scheduled to do weekly, but which are more about showing interest in what the students are doing, showing support for staff where necesssary, generally ‘checking the temperature’…)), but it is going to be a big challenge logistically…