Saturday, 26 July 2014

Are Lesson Observations A Waste Of Everyone's Time?

I have been thinking this week about lesson observations and what they actually achieve. I have come to the conclusion that they are, in most cases, a waste of time.

In my opinion, there are much better (and less stressful) ways of judging how effective a teacher is. For example, looking at the work produced by the children in that class in whatever form it takes. If this is good or better day after day then the teacher must be doing a decent job. If you cross-reference this with assessment information/data then a picture of the effectiveness of that teacher can be judged. Obviously, there are considerations within this model. For example, the assessments need to be accurate which will require rigorous moderation.

By looking at children's work and the assessment information for the class, a head teacher/SLT member/Subject Lead can make a decision about the effectiveness of particular teachers. This means there is no need for the added stress that a lesson observation brings.

Lesson observation 'lessons' are often not a true picture of how that teacher is performing day by day. It can go both ways. A teacher who is generally not performing well can produce a 'show' lesson for an observation which gives the impression that they are effective. On the other hand an outstanding teacher can crumble under the pressure of a lesson observation thus giving the impression that they are not effective.

With the introduction of performance-related pay, the pressure is increased even more if lesson observations contribute towards performance management. The only scenario where I can see that lesson observations are useful is if the other methods for judging effectiveness that I mentioned earlier show that a teacher is struggling. In that case it could be helpful for somebody to watch that teacher teach as a way of helping them improve.

I wonder how much of the stress of Ofsted inspections could be removed if teachers knew that their lessons were not going to be observed. Is the move by Ofsted to remove individual lesson gradings as step in this direction? I certainly hope so.