Look Closely!

The real point of observation

Classroom observation has been around a long time but what is the real point?

In the old days, classroom observation was used with a focus on how closely the teacher met the inspector’s criteria.

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Observation is becoming increasingly popular, for two main reasons. The first is the observer being invited in to observe something as specified by the teacher giving the lesson – this is for the teacher’s own practice development (and this approach may involve a small group of teachers working collaboratively).

The second is the observer doing the observation for their own practice development – seeing good practice in action or reflecting on their own practice in the light of what they are observing.

A third form of observation is now beginning to emerge. In this form the observer looks at multiple classrooms to observe what work the students are doing in terms of their mental activity and records these observations in such a way that patterns can be observed across the practices in different classes.

Changing shared practices to further move students’ mental activity from low to high demand is key to systematically improving student learning and outcomes.

It is middle leaders in schools who are best placed to do these types of observations, do the analysis and deep thinking required to find patterns and then lead interventions to change practices.

This links leadership directly to changing what is happening in a child’s mind.

John Corrigan