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Can I "pop in" to observe you next week? - Love or Hate?

Off the back of our two Teaching and Learning sessions on Effective Feedback, we thought it important to trace back the dots to epicentre of feedback... the feedback you receive when you, as a teacher, are being observed!

You may be in a school that operates an open door policy, you may be in a school where SLT are the only people to do observations; you may relish the feedback you get some being observed and opportunity to improve, or you may feel your toes curl when the observer emails you to set up a time to "pop in". Either way, there is a certain stigma around observations.

Should they be judgement based? Should teachers be provided with a grade/a number at the end? Should they be just to provide positive feedback? Should they not have any written feedback at all?... all questions that schools have grappled with and have had to make a decision upon - one way or the other - in their school strategy plan.

But what do we want to use observations for at Putney? Well we began the conversation by answering some of the below:

  • What are the elements of a good lesson at Putney? Is that different to a good lesson elsewhere/in the state system?

  • What defines Putney teachers and the lessons they teach?

  • What are the benefits of judgement vs. non-judgement observations?

  • How useful is a detailed vs. a blank page observation form?

  • Should we even observe at all?! Would a learning walk culture be more beneficial?

  • Do we like the form we use currently at Putney? How do we use observations? Should we change the way they are currently used?

What quickly became apparent was the passion with which our teachers felt towards their lessons. Some of the key characteristics they expected to see in a lesson were:

This is FAR from a definitive list and certainly not your typical "Ofsted/ISI" categories but it is what we think makes the heart beat of Putney tick.

Our reading this week was from Tom Sherrington - How to Observe:

This provided some useful examples and proforma's of what not to use, as well as his suggestions for what a good observation form should look like.

We looked through many examples ourselves and reached two main conclusions:

1. Our focus shouldn’t be on the teacher but instead on the student and how the teacher is facilitating the needs of the student. How could we change the observation form to reflect this shift in focus?

2. If we are to reduce the judgement element of the current Putney observation form, we should ensure that that there remains an element of developmental progress, which would allow for a coaching/mentoring conversation after the observation has taken place. Could we use questions to help generate this?

Observations are not going away! But the judgement is. Let's make sure that we are using observations to learn from one another, to witness the brilliant teaching that goes on at Putney every day and to develop a greater culture of sharing.

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