Judging lessons – a new approach at HWCS

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The value of individual lesson judgements has over the last few months come under the microscope across the teaching community and even from the chief inspector of schools who indicated that inspectors should be grading the teaching and not grading the lesson! I would like us to consider removing individual lesson grades and have a grade for the teaching, which I believe, will be a more formative and developmental approach.

The details:

Definition of ‘progress over time’: Students making sustained progress throughout a topic / term / year / key-stage; with demonstrable evidence such as data; students’ books; routines and the quality of teaching (not the teacher).

What it is not?
Expecting progress to be evident in 20 minute snapshots; one-off lessons judgements based on what you see in the classroom; forming an opinion, based solely on what you see in a lesson.


Why is it important?

  • Appraisal decisions and overall quality of teaching and learning across the school; used to informing CPD.
  • A fairer system for observing what is typical; makes observational feedback relevant to every lesson, rather than a particular activity; more reflective of what students receive day to day = getting a good deal.
  • A more rounded view of the teacher. Impressions (typicality and support) are not based on a one-off performance; but rather what is typical.

How do you observe (feedback on) Progress Over Time?
Looking at data; evidence of progress; looking in students books that are marked; evidence of students responding to feedback – in books! Talking with students. What is typical? And observing the teaching.

OBSERVER HELP SHEET – Student Questions

What do we need to do with Progress Over Time?
Regular formative feedback for teachers; class data for every class – not just teacher residuals based on KS4/ No judgements based on one-off observations;

A HMI reminder:

There is so much more that could be said about teaching, without infringing the professional judgement of teachers, to decide the most appropriate style of teaching to get the best out of their students. For example:

  • Do lessons start promptly?
  • Are children focused and attentive because the teaching is stimulating?
  • Is the pace of the lesson good because the teacher is proactive and dynamic in the classroom?
  • Is homework regularly given?
  • Is literacy a key component of lessons across the curriculum?
  • Do teachers use display and technology to support teaching?
  • Are low expectations resulting in worksheets being used rather than textbooks?
  • Are the most able children provided with work, which stretches them and allows them to fulfil their true potential?
  • Are children expected to take books home to do their homework and return them the following day?
  • Does marking give a clear indication of what the children have to do to improve and are clear targets being set?
  • Is the structure of the lesson promoting good learning and are children given sufficient time to practise and reinforce what is being taught?
  • Do teachers have sufficient expertise to be able to impart to students the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed?
  • Does the school have a robust professional development programme, which is improving the quality of teaching by disseminating good practice across the school or college?
  • Are teaching assistants supporting teaching effectively or are they simply ‘floating about’?

We are held to account by the Teacher Standards and our own school appraisal structure. As for the open process, this is much more abstract. Crucially, some common themes are highlighted when you ask the question, ‘What is a Good teacher?’. No matter who you ask; students, parents, colleagues, they will all give you the same descriptions thereabouts …


On one side, you will see (open) abstract questions that we would all want to ask ourselves at some point in our career. What is a good teacher? How do we know? Do you want to be a better teacher? It is these questions that we should all be asking ourselves. On the other side of the diagram, you will see the ‘closed’ process; this information and detail will never, ever go away.

All teachers will need to be appraised. It is statutory. It is our entitlement to know “how we are doing”. When it is not going well, the best of us will act on this feedback if the appraisal process appears to be fair and logical … There will always be a discussion needed about teaching-quality. And remember, one issue that will always linger, is that all headteachers and schools will need to assess and judge the quality of teachers. Crucially, headteachers manage school budgets and do have to make salary decisions.

Where these decisions are made, demonstrable evidence will be needed. But consider how the information is gathered and the validity of the information gathered. This can be summarised into consistency and validity; staff training and the quality of information evidenced. Once a year, I look at all this confidential information. We use the system to triangulate evidence in order to make rational decisions. This information is a key part of the process but is not all the information that we use. As you’ll see in the diagrams provided at the top of the screen, evidencing ‘progress over time’ will take into account, typicality and support; student conversations; evidence gathered in student books; observations – whether they are one-off, routine, or learning walks for CPD or appraisal – whatever you want to call it. That information will need to be gathered and this information will range in quality when gathered across departments.

Progress Over Time:

Intended outcome:

1. To clarify, how standards of teaching and learning will be gathered across HWCS.

2. To state how all teachers will be observed across HWCS

3. To provide a solution for monitoring and evaluating the quality of teaching and learning.

Questions to consider:

1. Should we judge lessons based on progress over time?

2. Should we revise our formal observation proforma and the framework?

3. What training opportunities are needed for SLT, teaching staff and middle leaders?


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