Unless you’ve been living under some kind of rock recently there has been huge debate about whether or not lessons should be graded, particularly by Ofsted inspectors. I could link to loads of different blog posts and articles related to this; even Radio 4 were discussing it on the Today programme this very morning – this in the run up to Wilshaw’s presentation to the ASCL today in Brighton (news write up here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26677651).
This blog post isn’t political though. It’s not going to comment on how (what appears to be) most of the things that people have been asking for from Ofsted were being proposed by him in a shake up to Ofsted. This post actually goes to a conversation I had recently with the brilliant Jackie Beere, Lisa-Jane Ashes and Simon Devine of Education for All. We were talking about the effect that graded observations can have on teachers. The fact that they feel like they have to be performing seals that jump to the hoop of the 1-4 grading, and what effect a negative grading can have on a teacher.
Having had training recently from an Ofsted inspector on observing and grading lessons, I’m pretty conversant on doing this work and using the lovely S5 evidence form. And if I’m being honest. Actually. I think graded observations have a place. In the world of performance management, is it not the case that we should have our work graded? It helps us to know how we are doing and where our areas are for improvement…? Thing is though – with the need for improvement, how do we best do that? Well – our conversation discussed this in some detail. From my point of view, I think we should start to learn from our own practice a bit more. We know as education professionals that students improve their work and subsequently their learning when they receive decent formative feedback. Hattie helps us with this. So why can’t we practice what we preach for our students on ourselves a bit too? The call for more supportive and coaching led observations asks for this clearly, but is it rocket science? Hattie says that students react best to feedback which is ‘just in time, just for me, just for where I am in the learning process and just what I need to move me forward’ – is this not true for us all? I know after I’ve had a lesson observation, I can’t wait to get my feedback and like us all, I know how high stakes it is – it certainly is for me because I have a massive sense of pride in what I do. I hear too many stories of people having to wait days for feedback; and to tie all of that feedback in to a score and have no constructive formative feedback – does that belittle us and our profession? How about we take on board the lessons and great practice we show our students and reflect it back upon ourselves a bit more.
Lesson study, as championed by the Japanese is one way in which we can shift the focus for our developmental needs as professionals. It’s well worth reading up on and I’m excited about starting to use it where I work. It really ties in to where my thinking is in the work of developing teaching and supporting colleagues in a systematic, supportive and collegiate manner. The clear and effective support of colleagues is really important. The work of David Weston and the Teacher Development Trust is groundbreaking in this regard and it’s no small wonder that the movement is getting as much traction as it is. More and more schools in the UK are joining NTEN – the TDT’s National Teacher Enquiry Network. Visit this link here and find out more. The brochure is compelling and it’s not a soft touch. Take a look at some of the images below screen grabbed from the appendix on the various elements of the programme. It’s not a soft touch approach. One of the things that appeals to me most is the clarity of the framework which has real rigour to it. It’s great and I can’t wait to get started.
Let’s do it.
Let’s do it for each other.
Let’s do it and help ourselves in the same way we help our students.
Let’s do it to help our students even more.