Tag Archives: Observations

Our Collective Responsibility⤴

from @ Becoming Educated

In the past week I have launched a short term working group in my school looking at using a coaching model for observations. The reason for this is linked to the narrative our school leaders are building towards. A large section of our staff have undergone training on coaching and using it to coach not only pupils but others and also we continually return to the ideals of system and servant leadership.

I believe a coaching model for observations will help us alleviate the fear and anxiety often associated with observations. Tell me, how often has someone observed you, gave you direct feedback and then you went to to do absolutely nothing that would improve your teaching practice?

In many schools and in many classrooms observations have little to no impact on the experiences of young people. This is because the key player in this does not have ownership or autonomy over their development. It is easy to watch a lesson and tell the teacher your thoughts but this can lead to resentment and anger or even worse…nothing. By encouraging observers to watch everything that goes on in a lesson and then ask coaching questions during their meeting to review the lesson such as why? tell me more? what do you think? and applying 80/20 talk time principles it places ownership firmly at the door of the teacher being observed. They after all are the most important factor in this. Through coaching questions you can provide a supportive yet challenging environment which forces people to talk through what went wrong, why it went wrong and what they are going to do about it.

By doing it this way we can all help each other as both the observer and the observed can learn during both the observation and the follow up discussion. This brings me to our collective responsibility.

We all have a collective responsibility for the success of each and every pupil. We also have a collective responsibility to improve each other, help each other and support each other. I want to work in a school where every teacher has learned that if any teacher or pupils is struggling and they have information that can help, they feel a responsibility to share it. Far too often teachers are an island in their own classroom. When the door closes (or stays open) and you are in front of 30 young people it can start to feel isolating but it never should be. We all teach the same young people with the same common purpose (our Just Cause) so it is ludicrous to think that we keep things to ourselves or allow others to struggle without showing them our support.

If we think of the ideas of Servant Leadership which tie in nicely with what I am aiming for here. A Servant Leader focusses on the growth and wellbeing of everyone within their community. They also puts the needs of others first and helps people around them to perform and highly as possible. In my model for observation I discussed above perhaps the observers role is that of a Servant Leader. They are placing the needs of the observed first and are using what they see in a 50 minute lesson to help the observer identify areas for improvement and strengths, of course.

A great video to watch about Servant Leadership is this short 3 minute video where John Harbaugh, Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens discusses how he enacts Servant Leadership. In his coaching conversations he regularly asks two questions ‘what do you think?’ and ‘what do you need?. We should be asking this of our Teachers everyday and it isn’t the sole responsibility of our school leaders but of everyone as we all have a Collective Responsibility for the learning of our young people and each other.

It is way too early to share whether on not our new model for observations will be a success but I do believe that become a Servant Leader and helping everyone learn of our Collective Responsibility we can make observations meaningful and impactful when the practice translates into helping our young people experience an excellent education.

Reading this week…13th January⤴


The first piece is by Mark Ensor, and it’s about parts of teaching which are not seen, but happen all the time in a reflective classroom. The piece discusses lesson observations at one point. I’ve had a few of those and I wouldn’t rate them highly as something that has improved my teaching. The things that have improved my teaching are reading websites, tweets and books, high quality training and casual observations and chat with the wonderful folk I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

Here is teacherhead revisiting Dylan Wiliam’s formative assessment strategies. When I’ve heard or read Dylan, it is a good reminder that his key principles of formative assessment have become many things to many people. He doesn’t think all of them are a good fit with his initial ideas.

If you’re wanting some podcasts for the new year based on education Third Space has this list.

I’m very interested in the use of retrieval practice to secure pupil learning and I’m always looking for ways to use it in class. Here is one teacher’s ideas.

And here are some more ideas of how we can use recall in class.

A simple sketchnote to help develop depth in questioning from Impact Wales. And another one.

Day 24 of 365

Gordon McKinlay

Day 24 of 365



Annually, teachers in my school are expected to be observed by a member of the school’s senior management team once. Just once. Departments also have their own internal observation policy, and this usually involves PTCs observing teaching staff in their department one time during every 12 months.

Teachers decide on a focus and pick which class they are observed with. A form is filled in during the observation and time is built in afterwards for feedback. This is all good, because it gives teaching staff an opportunity to get some valuable feedback on their teaching. The problem is…it’s fake.

It’s the same thing that happens with inspections. You get notice. And between getting notice and the time of the observation you stress and stress and stress. So you work jolly hard at making sure everything goes perfectly well in the lesson. Maybe you warn the pupils the day before to “behave” because Mrs So-And-So is coming to see them learn. The observation comes round and you show off the fact that you can write Learning Intentions and Success Criteria and differentiate the material so that the fast finishers are kept busy and the less motivated learners are supported. You even squeeze in a plenary full of AifL.

Is that learning and teaching in action? Ticking boxes in an observation? I want an observation policy that means the senior leaders and my PTC know that I strive to make sure that every lesson ticks all the boxes. I want them to know that sometimes it goes wrong. Sometimes the learners misbehave and sometimes I don’t use clear Success Criteria. Occasionally I forget to make my instructions clear enough. Sometimes I miss out having a tough problem for the high fliers to sink their teeth into when the intended learning has been achieved. Sometimes the bell rings before I expect it to.

What surprised and disappointed me most recently was something that I heard at a union meeting while discussing the Working Time Agreement: “You will be observed once by the senior leadership team. You will agree on a date, time and class and the observation will go into the diary. If, for any reason, the observation is missed (e.g. the senior leader is out of school or has to attend a meeting) you are not required to reschedule your observation. They get one shot.” Who is this for? Is it to comfort teachers that don’t want to be observed? I piped up “But you’d miss out on valuable feedback!?”. The reply was “well if you want to reschedule the observation, you can, but you don’t have to – they can’t make you”.

I think, as teaching staff, we’re missing the point. And our school leaders have got it wrong. It shouldn’t be that easy for teachers to get away without being observed. A colleague of mine recently commented that they hadn’t been observed for 7 years. How does that happen? In my opinion, observations serve a few purposes:

  1. They let teaching staff gain valuable feedback on their teaching – this is the most important purpose.
  2. They allow subject PTCs to gather evidence of how the department is performing – this helps with the writing of department scoping papers and so on.
  3. The allow school leaders to monitor the standards of learning and teaching across the whole school, highlighting areas of strength and areas of weakness so that interventions can be put in place when needed.

Basically, we need to calm down about observations. The stakes are too high and they really don’t need to be. If the school is supportive and the staff are supportive and everyone is reflective then observations should be the norm. They should be able to happen whenever the observer likes. You shouldn’t be putting on a show for an observer then settling for “fine” lessons the rest of the time. Treat every lesson as if it’s an observation. You’ll quickly see that that would be unsustainable. So instead treat every lesson like you want the best possible learning and teaching to happen for the learners in your class. At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.

Defunct? The role of observations at interview by @TeacherToolkit⤴


I have a bee in my bonnet and a professional-personal dilemma that I’d like to share with my readers. Context: *Disclaimer: This blog is not discussing job descriptions or candidate specifications. It is a challenge regarding the nature of one-off lesson observations used as part of the teacher-interview process for new appointments. It also makes … Okumaya devam et

How would you like to be observed? by @TeacherToolkit⤴


As Ofsted continue to face yet more challenges over the validity of lesson observations, I discuss how best we can develop as teachers and ask the reader, ‘how would you like to be observed?’ Context: An article I wrote was published in The Guardian on 27th May 2014. Disappointingly, I wrote this some time ago … Okumaya devam et

A culture of lesson observations by @adam_snell⤴


Almost three months have now passed since Ofsted announced the ground-breaking news, that inspectors would no longer be grading individual lessons. Except that it wasn’t that ground-breaking. Apparently this had been their instructions since 2009. Who knew? Yet despite this, it is “still possible for inspectors to record a graded evaluation, where sufficient evidence has … Continue reading