the Dragonfly journal

Re-imagining the Lesson Observation

By Steve Garnet, @Garnett_S

Author: Steve Garnet, @Garnett_S
Judging by some of the comment on social media there is some uncertainty about the future of grading lesson observations within a formal Ofsted inspection. If this happens then it is hoped that schools will follow a similar route and stop the grading of lessons within the context of school evaluation too.
The background to this growing uncertainty comes from the watchdog Policy Exchange. It is saying that “Unreliable” lesson observations should be ditched from Ofsted inspections. The right-leaning think-tank founded by Michael Gove, has also called on the inspectorate to consider ending its contracts with private firms which provide additional inspectors, arguing that many of them lack the specialist skills, knowledge and experience needed to judge schools fairly.
The highly critical report warns that this leads to schools “taking a lowest common denominator approach and making decisions on what Ofsted will understand” which are not in the best interests of students.
Policy Exchange says that brief lesson observations by inspectors can lead to conclusions which are neither “valid nor reliable”.
“At the moment a team of external observers watching a handful of lessons can make a judgment on the quality of teaching which trumps the view of the school itself,” said report author Jonathan Simons, the thinktank’s head of education.
“The evidence suggests that when it comes to relying on the judgment of a trained Ofsted inspector on how effective a lesson, you would be better off flipping a coin.
If the formal grading of lessons ceases, the question could be asked ‘Is there a place for reflecting on the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms?’ The short answer is yes but it’s how it’s done that causes the greatest consternation.
This leads me on to micro teaching. If you follow John Hattie, you will notice that this one of the interventions he notes has having a very strong effect size.
Dragonfly Training
Microteaching is a training technique whereby the teacher reviews a videotape of the lesson after each session, in order to conduct a “post-mortem”. Teachers find out what has worked, which aspects have fallen short, and what needs to be done to enhance their teaching technique. Invented in the mid-1960s at Stanford University by Dr. Dwight W. Allen, micro-teaching has been used with success for several decades now, as a way to help teachers acquire new skills.
Microteaching is an organised teaching improvement technique where the experimental teacher teaches a small group of audience (peers), which is recorded for review after each teaching section. The teacher reviews the recorded footage, makes correction where necessary, improves and re-teach until the desired result is achieved/learned.
In the original process, a teacher was asked to prepare a short lesson (usually 20 minutes) for a small group of learners who may not have been their own students. This was videotaped, using VHS. After the lesson, the teacher, teaching colleagues, a master teacher and the students together viewed the videotape and commented on what they saw happening, referencing the teacher’s learning objectives. Seeing the video and getting comments from colleagues and students provided teachers with an often intense “under the microscope” view of their teaching.
Perhaps the market leader in the recording of lesson observations is irisconnect but there other suppliers too.
So the conclusion appears clear. Dump the formal grading of lessons as too unreliable but replace the process with a developmental approach such as micro teaching (other approaches include any permeation of teachers observing each other in a developmental,non judgemental capacity such as triads, critical friends or critique groups.
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Steve is one of Dragonfly training most senior trainers, and he has received 95% 5 star feedback from all of his hotel-based CPD courses.