- Over the past year Ofsted has stressed that inspectors use a wide range of evidence to evaluate teaching, not just lesson observations.
- The teachers’ standards define teachers’ professional responsibilities and expertise, so they are the ideal vehicle for professional development and accountability.
- All teachers should have at least one observation each year where the focus is on performance management objectives and the teachers’ standards.
Teachers are good learners. Since Ofsted was created in 1992 schools have analysed what inspectors are looking for and have built this into their own systems for self-evaluation and improvement. This is particularly the case in relation to teaching, where schools have used Ofsted’s grade descriptors as a definition and checklist for evaluating teaching. Although other methods are used, such as scrutiny of work and planning, the preponderance of evidence-gathering is through lesson observation.
Over the past year Ofsted, up to the level of HMCI, has stressed that inspectors use a wide range of evidence to evaluate teaching and do not rely solely on observation, although it is an essential part of inspection. A report by Martin Cladingbowl (National Director for Schools) in February 2014 aimed to clarify this issue and, since June, Ofsted has been conducting a pilot programme in the Midlands region.
Inspectors will not enter a grade for teaching in each lesson. Instead, they will record their observations about what is going well and what is going less well, and use this to feed back to teachers or groups of teachers. Each inspector will use the evidence gathered throughout all of their observations and other relevant inspection activities to produce a summary evidence form about the quality of teaching.
This is a very positive development which schools should consider adopting because it demands a more balanced and considered evaluation of teaching and teachers. We all know the outstanding teacher who loses self-confidence when being observed.
Using the teachers’ standards
The teacher’s role, professional responsibilities and expertise are defined by the teachers’ standards, so they are the ideal vehicle for professional development and accountability. Schools are not required to evaluate teachers against the Ofsted criteria, but they must periodically determine whether each teacher meets the standards commensurate with their role and experience.
An Ofsted observer was attached to the review body that produced the teachers’ standards. Schools will not be surprised, therefore, that the standards are very similar to the Ofsted grade descriptors. However, if any group of teachers sits down and draws up a list of points to evaluate teaching, they will come up with similar criteria. How can we not put pupil progress at the top of any list?
Observing using the standards
All teachers have at least one observation each year where the focus is on performance management objectives and the standards. The objectives should be referenced to outcomes for pupils through improving professional expertise. For example, the general objective to ‘Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils’ (Standard 2) could be achieved by improving skills to ‘Plan and teach well-structured lessons’ (Standard 4). During the observation the appraiser would be looking for evidence such as:
- there is a clear plan with a timed structure
- the lesson starts and finishes on time
- pupils have sufficient time to produce quality work
- tasks are timed to maintain pace and attention
- pupils work with interest and enthusiasm
- pupils remain on task
- pupils ask questions and offer ideas and are keen to move to the next stage.
There is a worked example and an observation form in the Toolkit. Schools will find the format familiar because it is based on the Ofsted evidence form, which has been amended and adopted by the majority of schools. However, these are based on the teachers’ standards. The first, ‘Worked example – Teachers’ standards observation’, is an aide memoire for the appraiser. During the course of the lesson he or she refers to the bullet points to identify specific points and evidence. The second, ‘Form – Teachers’ standards observation’, is used to note down the specific features of the lesson and to give feedback to the teacher. At the bottom of the form the appraiser can give grades for any of the standards but only where there is sufficient evidence.
Evaluating teaching over time
Observation is an essential component of evaluation but is only part of the evidence base. Referring back to the pilot programme, inspectors will make notes of all the evidence they collect and complete a summary evidence form. These will then be used to make a corporate judgement on the overall quality of teaching. This exercise is similar to that but using the teachers’ standards.
Use ‘Form – Evaluation of teaching over time using the teachers’ standards’ in the Toolkit to grade each teacher against each of the standards, and from this grade the overall effectiveness of the school. The specific classes are for primary schools but it can be adapted easily.
This should be done separately by each of the senior leadership team, as in the Ofsted pilot programme, followed by a senior leadership team meeting for discussion. Do not agonise; this is a ‘best fit’ judgement. The discussion will clarify the evidence by asking each person to justify their grades. Since the form identifies salary, this should help to identify how senior (and more highly paid) staff are making a greater contribution to the school, if indeed they are.
Where a teacher is experiencing difficulties in meeting national standards at the appropriate career stage, a special programme of support known as the National Standards Support Programme may be undertaken at the discretion of the headteacher. The formal decision that a teacher is not meeting the standards will normally be taken during the review stage of appraisal, although it may be taken at any point if there has been a sharp deterioration. If this fails to lead to sufficient improvement and the school decides that the normal appraisal arrangements are not appropriate, the next stage is transition to capability.
Lesson observation is a precise technique for identifying strengths and weaknesses. It is very seldom that a teacher is identified as incapable through observation since there will have been many other earlier signals. This is why it is very important for senior leaders to carry out the evaluation exercise suggested above early in the school year and be very open with staff, giving praise or criticism as appropriate.
Use the following Toolkit items to put the ideas in this article into practice:
- Form - Evaluation of teaching over time using the Teachers Standards46 KB
- Worked example - Continuing professional development record57.5 KB
- Form - Continuing professional development record54 KB
- Worked example - The Teachers Standards observation46.5 KB
- Form - Teachers Standards observation (blank)42 KB