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Tips for a classroom observation

Ofsted lesson observations have changed.  Ofsted no longer award a grade for the quality of teaching for individual lessons visited and they do not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching. They may not stay for a whole lesson, there may be more of a "walk through" approach to observations and there is much more of an emphasis on the impact of teaching over a period of time.

Feeling positive about an observation is easier said than done, but try to use an observation as a positive experience. It's easy to see an observation as a threat, but keep in mind that observations have always been focused on seeing how the class are learning, not how you're teaching.

Try to focus more on the feedback than the grade given. Some teachers ask for feedback first, as it is the feedback which will help you improve. If you're nervous about the observation, the minute you hear your grade, it's easy to breath a sigh of relief or start panicking, neither of which are productive states of mind to absorb feedback.

For example, if you are told there was ‘not enough questioning' evidenced, it‘s easy to feel like that is a personal attack on your skills, but if you consider what this means, the observer is basing this on evidence from the lesson, and feels that telling you this would help drive learning forward. Any criticism is ultimately aimed at pushing learning further.

Good quality feedback provides a 'real-time' form of CPD which is not done to you, it is done with you, and by taking time to understand the feedback given, and act on it, you can get some great opportunities to focus your development as a teacher.

Here are some key things to think about when preparing for an observation, from some of the most experienced teachers we work with. 

Think about what the observer is looking for  

It may be that the observer will specifically say what they are looking for, but if not, ask them in advance to find out if there is anything that they are particularly keen to observe, perhaps how you promote peer assessment, or how you check understanding, and use this information to inform your planning. If you've had observations before, think back to them, and reflect on any feedback you received. If you're feeling nervous, make sure you focus on the positives too, and remind yourself of your strengths, rather than just looking at your weaknesses.

Think about the lesson as part of a sequence  

Observations are often not just about an individual lesson. Unless you have been specifically asked to deliver one lesson, it's important that the lesson fits in to a sequence, clearly leads on from what has gone before, demonstrates planning for what will come next and shows how it all fits together.

Books are important

Pupils' books are often used as a method of assessment, and observers may be keen to look at books to see how you mark and feedback to your pupils. Before an observation, ensure that marking is up to date. You may also want to allow time in an observed lesson for next steps marking so pupils have time to review and progress.

Remember the Teachers' Standards  

When preparing a lesson think about how the lesson demonstrates your ability to meet the criteria set out in the Teachers' Standards. Probably the most important point from this is to remember that every teacher is a teacher of ALL pupils. It is important that this is demonstrated in the planning and delivery of lessons. How are you differentiating? How are meeting the needs of gifted and talented pupils?

Plan - and have a back up  

Have a clear lesson plan and ensure there are copies for the observers and any support staff in the class. Ensure resources are prepared in advance and you have spare copies. If you're using any technology, such as whiteboards, laptops etc, make sure you have a back up plan in case IT fails you! Also have a plan for if the pupils finish the work early or if they are struggling with an activity.

Be yourself, be enthusiastic and stick to your usual teaching style  

You need to feel comfortable and confident in what and how you are delivering the lesson.

Be very clear about the lesson objectives  

Let the pupils know what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson. Be realistic about the lesson objectives and how much can actually be achieved in one lesson. Ensure that you can assess, by the end of the lesson, whether these objectives have been met through defined success criteria. Make sure it's clean, tidy and is conducive to a good learning environment. Are the displays current and do they reflect the pupils' learning and celebrate their achievements?

Finally, get in the mindset  

Feeling positive about an observation is sometimes easier said than done, but try to use an observation as a positive experience.

Good quality feedback provides an empowering form of CPD and by taking time to understand the feedback given, and act on it, you continue your own learning and development as an education professional. 

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