Increasingly I’m using peer-observation as a way of improving learning. As I have written fairly extensively about observations, I have firm (and maybe even sound!) ideas of what constitutes good practice.
Fortunately for me, the ways I can teach at the moment please inspectors. They achieve results, but other methods achieve results, too. Many conversations about the veracity of judgements have been made, and I observe and judge other teachers intensively.
I think that Ofsted observations should following the following format.
1) All observations should be accompanied by a senior teacher (and/or possibly a line manager.)
2) Observations should have a specific focus detailed in a lesson plan (albeit with expected variations. )
3) After the observation, the teacher should be expected to critique their own lesson. Ability is judged by how far the teacher was aware of what was happening, and what the students were doing.
4) After this phase, questions will be asked of the teacher to see if they were aware of other aspects of the lesson.
5) Judgements will be made on the teacher’s ability to critique their lesson.
If a teacher is unable to critique the lesson, then they are a poor teacher.
Of course, a poor lesson critiqued well does not make a good lesson. But if a teacher can effectively critique a lesson (and, therefore, express how it could be improved with tangible targets) then they are likely to ‘improve’ and teacher better lessons.
The pontificating of acronyms should fool nobody.
Yesterday I was observed by a senior manager from a partnership school. The feedback was exactly as I described above, and useful. Judgements were made as to the purpose of the learning. For example, I wanted my students to evaluate a comparison homework with a focus on how distinctive the conclusions were. One student was observed to say, “This one is good because it is long.” Their peer argued, like I hoped, that they were looking for quality and distinctiveness.
An observer could criticise this exchange under the guise that the students could (should?) have specific criteria to judge the conclusion. This is, of course, a judgement (as I wanted them to move on from simply looking at presentation and length.) However, I had little conception of creating criteria, or modelling this, prior to their evaluation. Whether time could be made was questionable too, but surely my visualiser could do the job in a minute or so? In all, the questions were useful, and I’m looking to experiment with my practice for my next observation.
Of course, a teacher needs to be confident to not be defensive: that isn’t something an observer can affect.