Observations & Lesson Visits

Making our lesson observations about ‘improving’, not ‘proving’…

Over the last few years, we had become increasingly aware of the growing discussions, first in quiet corners, then at conferences and in a range of blogs (such as this one from David Didau (LearningSpy) and this one from Professor Rob Coe) advocating abandoning the grading of lessons. The more we started to engage in the conversation ourselves and consider our own experiences, the more convinced we became that it was the way forward: the lack of support from research in terms of making firm and consistent judgements, the evidence that indicated judgements were influenced as much be the observer’s bias as by the observer’s observations, and the evident lack of impact that high-stakes, one-off performances have on staff development made it something of a no-brainer…

And so we went grade-free at the end of 2014-15… See this blog post for the latest on what we’re doing (or see below for a simple overview)


Why are the Learning & Teaching team observing lessons?

To provide focussed opportunities for professional reflection and dialogue around classroom practice; to create the opportunity to identify, harness and share effective practice across the school; to inform individuals’ development priorities within the CPD/INSET programme. This is currently done on a rolling programme working with one subject team at a time (see this blog post)


Why are Subject Leaders doing Learning Walks? (half-termly, 15-20min observations, typically ‘unscheduled’)

To enable SL’s to support the teachers in their teams in relation to subject-specific pedagogy, by facilitating reflection and dialogue; to create the opportunity to identify, harness and share effective practice within teaching teams; to inform department development priorities.

Throw in some peer observations and department learning walks involving all members of the department, and we have the most comprehensive programme of classroom visits that we’ve ever had: staff are sharing and learning from each, Subject Leaders have a clearer picture of the strengths and development priorities for their own team than in the past, and the leadership team have a more complete and thorough understanding of the practice of every individual in the school than at any point in the past.


“But wait, what about having a number to put in a spreadsheet ready for Performance Management?”

What about it?…. If your PM process relies on (potentially unreliable) judgements made in just one or two observations, then your PM process isn’t really a PM process at all…