Tag Archives: effective classroom practice

Lesson Observation or Lesson Study?

We have been using lesson study for a while now and although it isn’t new, it is still fairly new to us. I have written previously about the approach we have adopted in school and it is a constantly evolving model.  We have embraced this practitioner based classroom research with enthusiasm and commitment.   We are a school of advocates!  We have developed a model of lesson study based on the work of Dr Pete Dudley (@DrDudley13) and it has transformed our approach to CPD.

Rather than waiting for the next course/training/magic bullet to change our practice, we have developed an ongoing, devlopmental model that everyone buys into.

Many courses have very little impact beyond the delivery.  Changes and development in classroom practice are rare and impact on pupil learning scant at best.  Rather than invest time and money into such tried and tested approaches we adopted lesson study.   We have found that educational research is at it most potent in its native environment and classroom practitioners its most powerful exponents.

Lesson observations are a passive experience – teachers choosing to teach a safe lesson to avoid unwanted judgements does not move practice forward.  The scenario often played out goes something like this – teacher has observation looming, choses to teach something (previously taught) that shows them in a good light, observation sheet is completed by observer, evaluation is shared with teacher, teacher files away observation and process closes.  Until the next round of observations.   This evaluative, judgemental model does little to improve teaching and learning when compared with lesson study.

Because lesson study is research based it encourages staff to take risks, try new strategies and reflect with colleagues on the impact on pupil learning.   Because lessons are co- constructed and focus on learner response, teachers do not feel threatened.  Lesson observations can feel more like a personal judgement of the teacher than a supportive developmental process.   Lesson study encourages a collaborative approach to classroom practice and a level of (often collective) reflection seldom seen with the traditional lesson observation model.  It promotes a rich professional dialogue around teaching and learning and through carefully planned research lifts the lid on many of the tacit practices lived out in the classroom on a daily basis.  The evidence based approach and powerful pupil voice (learner response and post research lesson interviews) so important to lesson study make it a developmental model of classroom cpd that is proving instrumental in moving practice forward.

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What makes the Ideal Teacher?

Successive governments and policy makers have presented schools with what is to be taught. Teachers have been directed to what are assumed to be the best pedagogical approaches via initiatives such as the national curriculum and national strategies, they have been given the content to be delivered and the ways to deliver it. Does such an approach make an ideal teacher? Delivering such a top down model would certainly meet the requirements of policy makers, but would it meet the expectations of a range of stakeholders? If we were to ask parents, pupils and peers (fellow teachers) what would they say are the necessary qualities of an ideal teacher?
As a Headteacher, I believe the most important aspect of my role is to put the best teachers possible in front of the children, but what qualities and attributes make a person ideal? Dylan Wiliam was clear about the importance of the right teacher when he stated ‘it is not about the school your child attends, but which class in that school.’ Countless initiatives and strategies have been introduced over the years but they can only succeed if there is a teacher of the right calibre delivering them at the chalk face. One could argue whether indeed the best teachers need such a top down model? Are they not the best because they believe in taking risks? Because they are flexible and creative? Because they respond to the learners’ needs and are not afraid to deviate from the plan? Can such an approach sit comfortably alongside a prescribed national agenda?
A recent publication from Ofsted suggests ‘Teachers should also be encouraged to be creative and adventurous in their teaching, and to vary approaches depending on the nature of the learning planned for the lesson .’ (Moving English Forward ,Ofsted March 2012) This is heartening news as it encourages practitioners to exercise their professional judgement, make informed choices and respond to need. These qualities would most certainly be present in the ideal teacher, but are there other prerequisites? Would parents argue that establishing positive relationships was the most important factor? Would pupils see classroom management as the precursor to any effective teaching? Are there common traits that different stakeholders would recognise in the ideal teacher, the habits of an effective classroom practitioner that are evident regardless of content, curriculum or strategy? I’d be grateful if you could share your own thoughts on what you believe to be the key qualities of the ideal teacher.