Home > Commentary, cross-curricular, Education Policy, Ofsted, Pedagogy, Teaching > Observations, Ofsted and the Trial of Alfred Wegener

Observations, Ofsted and the Trial of Alfred Wegener

Last week I had a morning conversation with a colleague from the science department that got me quite excited. I was about an hour before lessons were due to start and the colleague in question came into the workroom and started cutting up some cards for his lesson. I noticed one mentioned “the jury” so asked him what he had planned. He informed me that he was looking at continental drift and was running the lesson like a trial. It was to be set at the time when Wegener had first come up with his theory and pupils were role playing parts of defence and prosecution barristers, expert witnesses on both side. The lesson sounded awesome, I was gutted not to have a non-contact period when it was on so I could go and see he lesson!

While we were discussing this I reflected that often when cutting up resources in the workroom the question gets asked “are you being observed?” This is something that normally bothers me, I don’t understand why people would change their approach to a lesson because an observer is coming in. Obviously, there are things you wouldn’t do for you PM observation, I can’t imagine there being any point in observing a mock exam where the class are working in silence for instance.

Our discussion moved on, as my colleague suggested that he wouldn’t do the lesson if he was being observed, as there was potential for it to go wrong. This was the polar opposite to the usual expectation, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

This got me thinking about observations. I think that by altering the way you teach for an observation gives a false picture, and means there is absolutely no point in the observation taking place. But, if you are planning exciting lessons, but are using safe and steady lessons for observations, you are also giving a false picture.

It think the key word we all need to keep in mind, is appropriate. My colleague Mark Miller recently wrote this piece exploring the Ofsted annual report. The evidence he found within is that Ofsted are finally moving towards an approach that recognises that a single one-size-fit all prescribed lesson format is ridiculous. The context of each school is vastly different; the context of each class within a school is also vastly different. Even classes of similar age and ability will have a different context, and what works for a class with one teacher may not with another. It’s all about finding the appropriate lesson for any given class at any given time.

I think that, as professionals, we should be striving to give all our classes the best lesson for them. Making sure the lesson is planned appropriately. The right amount of stretch and challenge. The right sort of activities for the class, and the right seating plan to enable the class to all make the best progress over the course of the year. And that should be the same for all lessons, whether you are being observed by SLT, HOD, Ofsted or no one at all.

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  1. December 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  1. December 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm

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