#BeyondLessonGrades by @TeacherToolkit and @LeadingLearner

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It may be that 2014 will be seen as a pivotal year in changing how we judge the quality of teaching.  The move from grading individual lessons to viewing teaching, students’ work and progress over time and in a more sophisticated way has only just begun. 

If we are serious about having a world-class education system, then the quality of teaching and teacher quality matters more than ever.  Our aim must be to improve it.



The link to the Selfy resource is here:

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Purposes of Lesson Observations

Lesson observations are used for different purpose:

  • Summative to assess teaching & teachers with lessons often graded and used as a proxy measure for quality of teaching
  • Diagnostic and formative to help develop teachers and enable them to become better practitioners
  • Diagnostic and evaluative to help develop the quality of teaching

In too many schools, the only form of lesson observation is summative with teachers being graded on a frequent basis with little opportunity to learn from the lesson observations. Other concerns about this type of practice are:

  • Is the lesson being observed representative or are you seeing the one-off “show pony” lesson?
  • Is the all singing all dancing “jazz hands” lesson sustainable?

It is time to move #BeyondLessonGrades to the Quality of Teaching: taking into account teaching over time; work completed by students between the observed lessons and the progress shown by students through assessments.

Focus = Impact

We must focus on teaching that has an impact. When teachers are observed there is too often little or nothing they learn from the experience.  This is sometimes due to a total lack of clarity about how the lesson is being judged and on other occasions, an extensive tick list approach which atomises teaching into a series of unrelated tasks.



The resource is devised around a few key sections and then further sub-divided into categories:

  1. Planning Section – Teacher Clarity and High Challenge; Developing Subject Procedural and Meta Cognitive Knowledge
  2. Practice Section – Positive Climate for Learning and Effective Classroom Practice
  3. Follow Up Section – High Quality Feedback and Homework (Secondary)

Each category has a crucial part in delivering high quality teaching and each one is then further broken down to produce a final list of sixteen high impact criteria.  These criteria form the basis of assessing the quality of teaching through the lessons observed, work scrutiny and progress data.  The criteria also provided an appropriately detailed level of feedback to the teacher about her/his strengths and areas for further development.

Assessments and Judgements


The spreadsheet which forms part of the resource deliberately use a different grading system to Ofsted’s both in terms of language and number of potential grades.  The three levels are:

  • Highly Effective Practice
  • Effective Practice
  • Not Yet Effective Practice

There are similar options available for the judgement about progress over time.  Following a number of lesson observations, work scrutiny and look at student assessment data an overall judgement on the quality of teaching is required.  Would you judge it as highly effective, good or does the member of staff require support?

What next?

We will shortly be releasing a second resource with an even greater focus on formative lesson observation and teacher learning.

This blog post’s associated resource is here:



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This is the first joint venture for @LeadingLearner Ltd and @TeacherToolkit Ltd.  We hope in time that many more teachers will be able to sell resources (as well as still sharing lots of great resources for free) alongside the book writing, speaker engagements and consultancy already enjoyed by some members of our profession.


In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account in which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in Britain' in The Sunday Times as one of the most influential in the field of education - he remains the only classroom teacher to feature to this day ... Sharing online as @TeacherToolkit, he rebuilt this website (c2008) into what you are now reading, as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK', winning the number one spot at the UK Blog Awards (2018). Today, he is currently a PGCE tutor and is researching 'social media and its influence on education policy' for his EdD at Cambridge University. In 1993, he started teaching and is an experienced school leader working in some of the toughest schools in London. He is also a former Teaching Awards winner for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School, London' (2004) and has written several books on teaching (2013-2018). Read more...

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