Over the last two weeks, the Leadership Team in my school have done observations of every teacher. Each observation lasted 30 minutes and most of them were in the first part of the lesson. We are likely to be visited by either Santa, or OFSTED, or both this term and so we are very keen it show that our students make at least good progress in lessons. I have done 11 of the observations so far and have 2 more to go. In one lesson, I believe the students made outstanding progress, in all of the others it was good. This is all really positive but in all the good lessons I saw there were things that the teacher could have done, or provided that would have pushed the progress towards outstanding. I am about to feedback to all staff in 4 small Skill Sets sessions and these are the things that I have noticed some teachers do, or miss out that could make a huge difference.
If anyone else has other ideas to add I would be most grateful
Provide the data that shows the progress the students have made
All staff produced seating plans, annotated and with information on Pupil Premium, SEND, target grades and, where relevant, year 10 exam grades. This was all good and very useful but you can also show where they are right now by including a copy of your markbook. This shows exactly what progress students have made this academic year, shows the natural ups-and-downs of progress - and is something you already have done. If you photo copy it and put it in your blue folder once a month it will show a record of progress - and also prove how often you are marking. Once reports have been done for each group, print them off too and put in the folder. Don't take anything out of the folder, just add the new sheet in with a date on it. We have all this data - the blue folder can prove you are using it. A good observer will look in their books and folders too and who will see the progress there as well. This makes it easier for you to demonstrate it.
Check that all students are on task all of the time - and if they're not, do something about it
Most students are human. Most of the time they will pay attention to you and work hard in your lesson. But they will lose focus from time to time. If they are off task during an observed lesson, the observer will assume they are not making progress. I know some teachers are worried about telling off a student when they are being observed because they think it will reflect badly on them. Ignoring them and not getting them back on task is far worse. Every single teacher has had students not pay them attention - just watch teachers in the next INSET session and notice how often some of us check our phones, send emails, text, chat to the person next to us, do a bit of planning. Just like the kids, most teachers are human.
Don't allow any student to be off-the-hook at any time. Paired discussion before answering, tick and add
If you ask Joe "why was the Montgomery Bus Boycott significant?" you send 2 messages to the class. Firstly Joe panics because he has to think of an answer right now and, secondly, some of the rest of the class switch off because they are off-the-hook right now. This is between you and Joe. Try posing questions and give students time to discuss it in pairs. Be specific about what they are discussing and where it will go. "In pairs you have 30 seconds to come up with 3 ways in which the Montgomery Bus Boycott is significant. Write the 3 down in your exercise book". Now Joe has 30 seconds to work out an answer and everybody can contribute to the discussion. When you start to get answers from Joe, and others, don't let anyone off the hook. I often use a strategy of 'tick and add' - if they had thought of this too, tick it; if they hadn't, add it - and adding to their list demonstrates progress.
If you can't eat it, it shouldn't be on the plate
I remember John Torode on Masterchef berating a contestant once for presenting a dish with flowers on for decoration. His comment was "if you can't eat it, it shouldn't be on the plate". I think the same can be true of lesson observations. I have seen teachers tell students about literacy, numeracy, outdoor learning, careers in their subject etc during observations. All worthy stuff and I am glad it is happening, but sometimes it is completely irrelevant to the lesson at that point. It doesn't add anything and actually confuses some students because they can't work out why you are telling them this right now. A good observer will find evidence that you do all of these things in exercise books, on displays on the wall, in your blue folder or by talking to the kids.
Focus on fine detail to show rigour
One of the best things for me about this round of observations is that the vast majority of lessons where Key Stage 4. At this level, particularly with year 11, most students should be focusing on fine detail to make progress: looking at exam questions to determine exactly what they are being asked to do, interrogating markschemes to find out what the examiners reward, analysing examples of other students' work to see good practice. For the most able, this attention to detail is the best way for them to make progress. Don't be afraid to do this in an observed lesson even if it might be a bit dull compared to some lessons you might want to show off - but it is a great way of showing progress.
Routines prove that you are doing outstanding things day after day - lack of routine will expose that you aren't
The best lessons I saw in the last two weeks were lessons where there was a real sense of business-as-usual. You can spot routines in lessons. How students get into groups shows whether they regularly do this and understand how groups work well together. The presentation of work shows that they are routinely encouraged to work on that. How students respond to your questions shows whether they are used to hands-up on no-hands-up in your lesson.
Individual silent work allows each student to consolidate their learning, make sense of information and show their progress
Don't be afraid of short periods of silence in your lesson. Most students need a 5-10 minutes period of silent, independent work. This gives them a chance to consolidate the learning, make sense of what they have been doing, work out whether or not they really understand it - in short, to make progress. It also gives you an opportunity to move around and look at individuals. In my experience students don't mind working in silence - I often explain to them that they need to practice working in those conditions as these are the conditions they will have to work in during the exam. I use group and collaborative work in every lesson but I also have a silent, independent section of most lessons too.
You are in charge of the lesson - the observer is your guest. Show them what you want them to see
This is your room and these are your students. You know them, and the progress they have made better than any observer ever will. Produce a context sheet which explains what they have been doing in recent lessons, why you have arranged the room in this way. Put things in front of an observer that you want them to see. If you have great examples of their work in folders, put it in front of them. It doesn't guarantee they will look at it, but if it isn't there they will never see it.
One at a time
This was one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given on teaching. When giving students instructions, give them one at a time. We have all done it, I suspect. In our rush to get them into a task we tell them what they are going to do, what they will need, what they will need next, what they will write after that and then which page they will look at next. Without realising it, we have given students over 10 separate instructions. They will probably remember the first one or two and possibly the last one - the rest are a blurry mess. Give them one instruction, let them do it, then give them the next one. It is quicker, they can all usually manage it and, confused kids can't show progress.