There are many misunderstandings about lesson observation. Quite often it comes down to checking a list of standard observations according to some model of the ideal teaching style. It goes wrong when the feedback that follows is nothing more than summarizing what was not good and what was ok about the lesson. It can be even worse, when the person giving the feedback tells you “I wouldn’t have done that,” or some similar comment.
“There is a special hell reserved for such people,” says David Didau in his blog The Learning Spy, where he explains what bad lesson observation looks like and how it should be done. First and foremost, lesson observation should aim at improving teaching: “Lesson observation, if it is to be productive and actually help teachers improve, needs to focus less on making judgements and more on teasing out teachers’ expertise.”
Two years ago, Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of OFSTED, the British school inspection, shared his views about good teaching and lesson observation, reblogged here. These ideas are not only useful for school inspectors, but for everyone who is involved in helping teachers to improve their teaching, whether they be colleagues, heads or administrators.
Wilshaw’s comment about heads of schools struck me as very relevant in this respect:
“Headship is about leading teaching first and foremost. A good head understands this and is, therefore, more outside his or her office than inside, patrolling the corridor, entering classrooms and engaging teachers and children throughout the school day. Good management is always secondary to good leadership of teaching.”
A lot of teachers have been told that OFSTED will require them to stop teaching their classes and, instead, make children sit in groups knitting their own yoghurts, pausing only to be lectured on the minutiae of how to distinguish a level 5c from a level 4a. The best antidote to this is to hear what Michael Wilshaw, the head of OFSTED, actually said to the RSA when asked to describe a good teacher.
Here is a transcript of his comments:
Perhaps I can start by mentioning two teachers to you that I remember from Mossbourne, my previous school. There are many good teachers there. I just want to mention two of them as a way of leading into this debate. One is an English teacher. She’s still teaching there. She’s in her late twenties. She’s an absolutely outstanding Advanced Skills Teacher and I remember observing lots of her lessons…
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