Earlier this year I was observed teaching a lesson on fractions. I used resources and a lesson plan I have used many times before. I have been observed teaching this lesson several times. The outcome has always been a 2 or a 3.
I used the lesson despite this for two reasons.
Firstly it’s a lesson I am comfortable with. The pupils tend to learn what I want them to learn. They also tend to enjoy it (or it least not whine about how boring it is). I know it inside out. I know all the common misconceptions and I can easily alter it at need if it isn’t going as expected.
Secondly it’s a lesson I like. I don’t really care if it isn’t sufficiently “engaging” (entertaining) for some observers. The pupils learn, I like it and I’ve never cared that much about ratings anyway.
The lesson went ok. I’ve taught it better before. Pupils have engaged with it better before. I agreed with all the feedback and thought the observer had noticed most of the important things that had gone on in the lesson. The area for development was fair enough. It was admin things I had forgotten to do.
This time it was outstanding. I’m not complaining but equally I’m not sure why it was judged better than in earlier observations in other schools when it went worse than in some of them.
I’ve had the following thoughts on why:
- In both my previous schools I have been embroiled in conflicts with management when observed teaching this lesson. In the first the HT and her minions jumped at any opportunity including observations to attack. They came in looking for problems and found them. In the second my leadership was under attack. When the results turned out to be the best results the school ever had the HT changed tack and attacked my teaching instead and not backing off. Thus observers came to my lessons looking for problems and not positives on the previous occasions this lesson was observed.
- In my current school my teaching is highly regarded. Thus the observer came looking for positives and found them.
- The behavior in my current school is far better so it takes less work and effort to deliver an outstanding lesson as my focus is very much on learning and far less on behavior.
When I was regularly observing lessons in a previous incarnation I did a series of joint observations with a colleague where he focused on positives and I focused on problems. We’d then compare notes. The ratings we had given to the same lesson would be VERY different.
We also tried putting our predictions of the outcome of observations in an envelope in advance of the lesson for a year and recording the predictions and outcomes. The outcome was the same as our prediction around 90% of the time.
It’s possible that this is just us and other observers would not find similar results however this indicates to me that preconceived notions of how good (or not) a teacher is directly impact on observation outcomes.
This is to my advantage in my current school as what was an ok lesson was judged outstanding. However it does make the ratings of questionable value in my opinion.