Lesson Observations

This year’s top priority for our school is to improve the wellbeing of staff and pupils. To help with this we carried out a wellbeing survey, which showed that one area we need to work on is consulting with staff before making changes.

Over the last week we have been carrying out lesson observations, and thought that this would be a perfect topic for a consultation. Our teachers are extremely reflective about their practice, and the aim is to make sure that the lesson observations are as useful as they can be in supporting this.

The first step was to clarify the purpose of the observations: to help teachers reflect on and improve their teaching; and to add to the big picture about the quality of teaching in the school. We don’t use observations to judge the quality of individual teachers, or as part of the appraisal process.

Teachers were asked for their views on four things:

  1. Who should carry out lesson observations? Should it be SLT, peers, or a combination?
  2. The frequency and timing of observations. Should dates be chosen in advance by teachers, by SLT, or should they be unannounced?
  3. What should the focus of the observations be? Should this be chosen by the teacher or by SLT?
  4. Grading of lessons. Should we continue with ungraded lesson observations, or would teachers prefer lessons to be graded?

We asked them which of the options they preferred, and to identify positive and negatives about each of the choices.

Responses:

  1. There was a mixed response, with about half of teachers preferring SLT to carry out observations, and about half wanting peers to be involved.
  2. Again, there was a mixed response. Some teachers wanted to choose the dates of observations and others wanted them set in advance by SLT. It was difficult for anyone to find anything positive to say about unannounced observations.
  3. Most teachers wanted to set the focus of lesson observations themselves. We have been trialling this for a while, and found that it makes the process much more of a dialogue.
  4. Teachers wanted to continue with ungraded observations.

What happens next?

We have offered teachers two choices for the next round of observations. They can choose to carry on with our current practice, or to trial the changes identified in the consultation. This will mean peer observations, with the date and time chosen by the teacher being observed.

We will then evaluate which process is most helpful in developing teaching, and whether the changes will add to the big picture about the quality of teaching in the school.

 

Wellbeing Survey

The key priority for our school this year is to improve staff and pupil wellbeing. As part of this, for the first time we gave all of our staff a wellbeing questionnaire. The outcomes gave me some real food for thought.

The survey showed that one area that our school leadership team really needs to work on is consulting about change, and making sure we are really clear about the need for change. Some people also felt they didn’t get enough training in order to implement new procedures properly.

My first reaction when seeing these results was that some changes get foisted on us, and it’s not always possible to consult people about them. I then thought about how sometimes it is easier to see the need for change if you are in a leadership post and can see the bigger picture. My next reaction was that sometimes school leaders need to make changes quickly, and it isn’t possible to consult everyone if you just need to get on with things.

I then thought a bit more and realised that these three reactions were wrong, and really just excuses for me getting things wrong in the past. If we really want to improve wellbeing we have to do things differently.

So, from now on I won’t use any of the three excuses.

If we want to try a new way of doing something we will implement it properly. We will be really clear with everyone about why a change is needed. Before rolling anything out to the whole staff, we will have a trial with a small group of willing volunteers and evaluate whether or not it works. We will make sure we are clear about what needs to stop being done to make room for the new thing. Finally, we will give proper time for training, and proper time for implementation.

Hopefully, when we run the questionnaire again at the end of the year we will see an improvement!