2.1 Reading Classrooms: How to Maximise Learning from Classroom Observation
Use these videos and the questions below to perform a practice lesson observation. For more lessons to practice on, search ‘lesson observation’ on YouTube.
Natalie Dallen Trailer
Emma West Trailer
Focus questions for lesson observation
Print off the downloadable checklist and take it into your lesson observations, so that you can stay focused and make the most of the experience.Downloadable Checklists
Briefing and preparing for observation
- Note the date, time and place of the lesson.
- Are you briefed on the topic being taught in the lesson and the composition of the class?
- With respect to professional ethics, have you agreed upon your role: a participant or non-participant?
- Have you agreed upon how and what you will observe?
- Have you agreed upon how you are going to provide feedback to the teacher as well as any future use you may make of your notes?
Management of learning and pupils’ dimensions
- What were the teacher’s expectations about pupils’ responses to what has been taught?
- How did the teacher promote behaviours for learning?
- Were there established routines and codes of conduct? What were they?
- Were issues of health and safety considered during the lesson? What were they? How? When?
- Did the teacher use strategies that promote behaviours conducive to learning? What form did that take and what were the outcomes?
- Is there a rationale for the teacher to use seating plans? Why? Do these favour particular pupils?
- How did the teacher use voice and gesture in the lesson to encourage pupil participation?
- How did the teacher make use of assessment during the lesson and how was this fed back to the pupils?
- Were pupils involved in the assessment process? How? What were the outcomes?
Teaching and learning questions
- What was the plan/structure/shape of the lesson?
- How was the lesson introduced? How did the pupils know the intended learning outcomes planned for the lesson?
- What were the different learning activities that the pupils undertook?
- Was there group or pair work?
- Did pupils receive a range of tasks, degrees of help and variety of resources?
- What were the different ways that pupils recorded or presented their learning?
- How did the teacher direct the pace of the lesson? ‘Pace’ refers to the appropriate allocation of time to complete tasks set.
- What form of question and answer sessions did the teacher initiate?
- How were pupils encouraged to ask and answer questions?
- What resources were used to assist in learning and how were they used?
- How did the teacher provide a range of teaching strategies to ensure all pupils can access what has been taught?
- Were digital technologies used during the lesson? How?
- Was the teacher handling the technology used?
- Did the pupils have a hands-on experience to complete tasks?
- What learning was supported through the use of technologies (see Unit 5.3 on teaching strategies)
Other professional issues
- Was a teaching assistant or special educational needs teacher also in the room? What was their role and how did they work with the pupils? How did they work with the teacher before and after the lesson?
- Have you identified any gaps in your subject knowledge through observing this lesson? How are you going to address them?
- How has this observation made you consider your future professional practice as a teacher? What professional issues has it raised for you? Discuss these with other beginning teachers and your mentor or tutor in relation to the importance of becoming a reflective teacher.
2.2 Schemes of Learning, Units of Learning and Lesson Planning
Creating a lesson plan
As you develop as a teacher, you are expected to adapt to different levels of pupil attainment in your planning. This is often called differentiation and more recently, adaptive teaching and refers to the need to consider pupils’ attainment in your planning and teaching so that all pupils are challenged and extended by the work (Ofsted, 2019; Parsons, et al., 2018). Adaptive teaching can be achieved in different ways depending on the material to be taught. Adaptive teaching may, for example, be achieved by outcome (that is, different types or qualities of work may be produced) or by task (where tasks are adapted for different pupils) or by teacher input (that is, the level of support or teaching strategy applied) (Unit 4.1 provides further information). You provide continuity of learning for the pupils by taking account of and building on their existing knowledge, skills and understanding.
As your experience of the curriculum and of pupils’ learning develops, it becomes easier to answer this question. You need to consider what has been taught before as well as the experience outside school that pupils might have had. It may be appropriate to do some form of testing or analysis of knowledge, skills, attitudes and understanding or to have a discussion with pupils to discover their prior experience and attitudes regarding the work in question. As a beginning teacher, you should seek advice from the staff who normally teach your classes, as well as consulting national guidance materials.
Learning outcomes are assessable intentions for what the pupils will know, understand and be able to do. Drawing up effective learning outcomes requires considerable thought. One way of presenting learning outcomes is to identify what ‘all’, ‘most’ or ‘some’ pupils should be able to do. Alternative thinking is to set a single challenging outcome, question or focus for the lesson to be shared with the pupils. When writing learning outcomes, you should include a verb (what your pupils will do to evidence their learning e.g. demonstrate or explain), a context (the situation in which the learning will take place e.g. individually, in a group, written or verbally) and in some subjects a quality (the characteristics or features of the behaviour e.g. with accuracy, creativity or confidence) that ensures your outcome is measurable.
Verbs that help you be precise are those such as state, describe, identify, prioritise, analyse, explain, create and justify. These verbs force you to write outcomes that can be observed or measured. If you think that your learning outcomes are vague, ask yourself whether they make it clear what the pupils have to do to demonstrate their learning
On the example lesson plan provided in the textbook, a timeline is drawn down the left-hand side. You should plan for short learning episodes in order to maintain the engagement of the pupils. At the planning stage, think practically about how long it is likely to take to set up, complete and review each task. During the lesson, the timeline enables you to see easily if it is necessary to adapt the original plan to fit the time available.
It is important to select and make available the most appropriate resources to achieve the learning outcomes. Check how resources are reserved in your department and book them early because other staff may need them at the same time. You should also be prepared to adapt resources to suit different classes and to evaluate their suitability.
You should plan for how you group pupils, integrate resources and manage transitions between activities and stages of the lesson (see Units 2.3 and 4.1).
Teaching strategies should be selected as the best method to achieve your learning outcomes (see Units 5.3 and 5.9). Where possible, a range of learning strategies should be planned to engage and support all pupils’ learning (see Unit 5.2). Relevant questions should be planned for every lesson to assess pupils’ knowledge and understanding during the lesson and to develop their higher order thinking skills. Phrasing appropriate questions is a key skill for a teacher (see Unit 3.1).
The assessment methods selected should enable the learning outcomes to be accurately assessed. It is therefore important to choose reliable assessment methods and you should seek advice from the teacher of the class. Ensure that you allocate sufficient time to carry out your chosen assessment methods effectively (see Unit 6.1).
Safety is an important issue in schools. In some subjects, the assessment of risk to the pupils and incorporation of strategies to minimise this risk are a necessary part of the teacher’s planning. Departmental and national guidelines are provided and should be followed to ensure the safety of pupils. As a beginning teacher, you should consult your head of department, class teacher or mentor for guidance on safety issues. Never undertake an activity until risk assessment has been considered. For examples of risk assessments see your subject association guidance (e.g. The Association for Science Education; The Association for Physical Education; The Design and Technology Association). Subject associations are listed in Appendix 2.