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November 20, 2012 / mrespiers

Opening doors

photo by Nicola Corboy on Flickr

Do you want to be a better teacher? Can you do it alone?


We want our students to do the best they can and we know that one of the most effective methods we have to help them achieve this is good quality regular feedback (See the Sutton Trust Toolkit and John Hattie’s research).

So why do we not apply the same ideas to our own development? Here are some sums:

Lessons per week x38 6 lesson obs (min required for NQT) 3 lesson obs (previous union guidance) 1 lesson obs (under current PM/appraisal) Lesson obs required for 5%
A full time teacher with no responsibilities 22 836 0.72% 0.36% 0.12% 41.8
A NQT 20 760 0.79% 0.39% 0.13% 38
AHT 12 456 1.32% 0.66% 0.22% 22.8

Do these percentages represent a proportion that is sufficient for development or quality assurance or anything?

I know we can get feedback about our planning and our marking and other things outside the classroom but if we don’t get feedback on what is actually going on in the room how can we expect to improve?

Self-evaluation and reflection are obviously crucial here but we do not expect students to thrive on this alone, so why should we? We expect them to learn from the skills and experience of the teacher, the TA and the other students around them but do we live up to our own expectations?

Now, please don’t get me wrong, this is not about OFSTED and graded full lesson observations every week to stress people out even more than they already are. (Although under current arrangements schools are finding it increasingly difficult to make evidence based judgements about the quality of teaching and learning due to the restrictions on lesson observations.)

I want this to be about developing an ethos of openness and a culture of support and sharing good practice. We have some much expertise in our staffrooms that we do not utilise as well as we could.

So I implore you to open your doors and welcome your colleagues in. Use this ‘open classroom’ sign from @teachertoolkit and start developing a culture of feedback not failure.

Here are some more tips for getting the most out of observations and feedback:

  • Observe from the front facing the class. This places the emphasis on the learning and less on the teacher.
  • Agree a focus in advance and discuss what you want to get out of the process.
  • Don’t write anything for the first 10-15 mins – get a flavour for the lesson first.
  • Use descriptive words (adverbs and adjectives) in your feedback notes:

‘you greeted them warmly’

‘you explained things swiftly’

‘you dealt with the incident discretely’

  • You can then lead into notes/discussion on what the effect of this was by using TMT (this meant that):

‘you greeted them warmly’ – TMT they were settled and ready to learn quickly.

‘you explained things swiftly’ – TMT the pace was frenetic but not everybody understood what to do.

‘you dealt with the incident discretely’ – TMT the rest of the class were not disturbed and the learning atmosphere remained.

  • Sometimes have a very specific focus and just keep a note or tally about this e.g. questioning, thinking time, feedback, transitions, smiles, boy/girl attention etc
  • Talk to kids about the subject and their learning.
  • Look at books and feedback. Obviously it will depend upon the agreed focus but most observations would benefit from this to some extent.
  • When discussing the lesson afterwards ask which part of the lesson had the best learning and why?
  •  Agree a format for feedback e.g. WWW+EBI, ‘Have you thought about…?’

Please add your tips, ideas and experiences below


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