Observations: Improving Reliability

Free

This is a simple A6-postcard to be stuck outside classroom doors to help reduce observational bias and unreliability. Please read the context below when using this product.

This is an editable Powerpoint file.

 

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Description

This simple idea is to support school leaders and teachers.

Having taught approximately ~18,000 lessons in London state schools since 1993, I’ve received every possible form of lesson observation in and out of the classroom. Worryingly, less than a handful of occasions shaped me as a practitioner. I have also observed at least the same number, if not more having conducted observations (whether 5 or 60 minutes in length) as a middle and senior leader in 5 different secondary schools. I also suspect very few genuinely helped others. Maybe I’m being too harsh on myself and the teaching profession? After all, we are time-poor professionals and have very little time to meet with each other on a regular basis, nor do we have time to deliberately practice being better at one thing.

Nonetheless, today it is my conclusion that learning walks in their current form are pointless and worse, dangerous.

When you asked a room full of teachers, “Hands up who works in a position of leadership which gives you the permission to observe other teachers?” you will see a large number of hands raised. Taking this further: “Keep your hands up if you have received any formal training?” The numbers of ‘hands up’ tend to drop dramatically. When you then ask if anyone left has a formal qualification in observational practice, all the hands in any room disappear!

I want to change this.

In mid-2019, during my doctoral course, I thought I knew everything there was about coaching, feedback and observations, but then I discovered an alternative methodology – observing as a researcher – which I’m now sharing on my teacher-training travels. More specifically, I want to improve observation reliability and open-door culture which is seriously lacking across the teaching profession. I am keen to reform observation practice at a national level in schools, and equipping schools to challenge observers who are visiting for inspection purposes.

To help flip this default position (and sharing here with you without the full context) this simple resource is a good starting point. I plan to share more details in the near future.

How to use?

    1. Print on A6 card; laminate the postcard
    2. The teacher should write/print their own focus for the term ahead, for example, ‘Improving open-ended questions.’
    3. Stick the sign the top-left of the door frame.
    4. Before anyone pops in, including inspectors, the focus is clear.
    5. The outcome? It won’t reduce every proxy for learning, but it will help trump any observational assumptions.

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