Lesson observations with impact


I’ve never been keen on lesson observations simply because I’ve always doubted the bang for buck of this education staple. I appreciate that we need accountability in schools and we need to ensure that every child is getting the best learning experience but I’m not convinced a one hour, or less, prearranged observation is the answer. I imagine no SLT really believes in this either but still it continues because of the need for a paper trail.

Basically my philosophy, that I’m now 100% committed to no matter what the powers that be say, is that observation must form part of CPD and it is all about teacher development and deep discussion about learning.

In my quest to find an observation arrangement that has real impact these are the methods I’ve tried and a brief evaluation of each.

Traditional lesson observations carried out by me, the head,and with Ofsted style gradings.

Key points

– Stressed teachers

– Performance lessons that were not a true reflection of day to day practice

– Competitive staff room chat

– Stressed head trying to observe 20 teachers and give and write up feedback

– Targets that were conveniently forgotten


Lesson study cycle

Key points

– Great to get teachers into each others classrooms

– Non threatening approach

– The joint planning element made it developmental from the outset

– Our inclusion of pupil interviews after the lesson was insightful

– Some stronger teachers felt they got less from the experience

– Pairings could be difficult as there were clear preferences for certain partners

– Time consuming and needs teacher release to be most effective


Planned learning walk brief drop ins

Key points

– Teachers and assistants still felt they needed to put on a show

– Good because all classes could be seen in one or two days

– Feedback given as a whole school rather than individual so no one felt singled out but equally no one felt uniquely responsible for the development issues.


Unannounced drop ins trialed in ks1

– This is best done mid session and by talking to each table about what they are learning and how doing their tasks helps them

– I found this most useful for looking at whether all students needs were being met and how most able were being stretched.

– Not enough time in class to give very detailed feedback

– Good for checking on whole school priorities

– More a monitoring tool than a developmental method


Pick and mix observations- this is my newest incarnation of the lesson observation process. It started with the premise that all staff are different just as all children are different. We differentiate work for pupils to make progress but we expect teachers to fit into a one size fits all observation process. Through staff consultation and my knowledge of staff strengths and weaknesses I set about trying to make each teachers lesson observations unique to them. I wanted them to take risks and through the observation and working together ask me and the SLT to answer specific questions that would develop their practice further.

See my staff questionnaire here:


Key Points

– A collaborative process

– The observer and teacher /teaching assistant meet prior to the observation to look at planning and resources and discussion about the impact on learning occurs

– This is an individual approach with different teachers choosing different approaches

– Teachers are encourged to focus on an area they want to develop and not deliver a show lesson

– Feedback answers questions posed by the teacher

– Feedback focuses on discussion of questions and development is planned through another series of questions

– The teacher /teaching assistant then uses future practice to address the questions posed and will answer them further in the next observation period

-Through initial discussions we organised training as part of the process and then observations focussed on how the teacher used the training to support the classes learning.


In summary

I really liked the lesson study cycle method but in a school without a floating supply teacher and a day that doesn’t finish until 16.30 time is hard to find for two members of staff to work together to make this most effective.

This years pick and mix observations have proved a meeting in the middle ground of lesson study cycle and teacher individual needs. We’re yet to finish all observations but so far the feedback received has been positive. I intend to use a follow up questionnaire to  monitor the impact.

Finally some examples of the questions teachers wanted answered:

1. Is my approach accessible for all?
2. Is my questioning effective?
3. Are all children achieving?

Is there enough creativity?

Is my questioning useful/effective?

Could this material be presented in a more practical and enjoyable way?
Are my expectations appropriate and well judged for the students’ learning?
Are the activities that I use making the most of often limited time (30 minutes for example)?

1.Is my carpet-time at the right pitch and length?
2. How can I maintain the attention of such a large and diverse group?
3. Am I meeting the needs of all of my students? Are they on the right path to being prepared for Year1?



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