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Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Road to Outstanding Part 4 - Planning and Teaching

You know your cohort, the classroom environment is arranged and you have a clear behaviour policy in place. You are ready for the next step towards outstanding teaching and learning and in the words of Yoda:

  'A Jedi soon you will make.' 

What does an outstanding lesson look like? With a simple Google search it is possible to find a whole host of cafeteria's, tick lists and outstanding lesson examples. However , there are far too many different lesson types, cohorts and teaching styles to make these ideas useful. Actually using a criteria can have the opposite affect with teachers over planning, not teaching to their teaching style or strength and not considering the cohort of pupils they have before them with their own very individual needs. There is no 'ideal'  formula!

Ofsted and school Senior Leadership Teams have to take a lot of  the blame for spawning a fear that results in over reliance of a particular lesson format and teaching style. Teachers receiving Ofsted and Performance Management lesson observation feedback with criticism for 'too much teacher talk', 'pupils sat on the carpet for too long', 'not enough differentiation.' 

If we are to believe the recent press releases from Ofsted then actually Ofsted will not be grading teacher or lessons on these factors anymore:

'Inspectors should not grade an aspect such as teaching, unless circumstances are exceptional, without considering the broad range of evidence that they can gather during a visit to a lesson – for example, the behaviour of the students and how well they are managed, subject knowledge, the standard of work completed in books, the quality of marking and so on – and use this to come to a view about what teaching is like for those students and its impact on their learning over time.' 

'I was speaking to a colleague today, one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors. He reminded me it is all about outcomes and that it does work both ways. In a classroom he was in recently, a teacher produced, literally, an all-singing, all-dancing lesson. There was music, comedy, costumes, games, ‘thinking hats’, and all with clear objectives on the whiteboard. He recorded a teaching quality grade of inadequate. Not because of the ‘performance’ on the day but because students’ graffiti-strewn books hadn’t been marked for six months and work was shoddy or incomplete. In contrast, he graded teaching as outstanding in a classroom where students sat reading in silence because of the exceptional quality of students’ work and the teacher’s marking in exercise books. He told both teachers what his conclusions were'    

A summary by Mike Cladingbowl, National Director, Schools.Taken from 'Why do Ofsted Inspectors Observe Individual Lessons and How do they Evaluatr Teaching in Schools' 
21st February 2014

Outstanding teachers do not try to fit into a specific teaching style or lesson format, they think, plan and teach 'outside of the box.' Whilst this may be a scary prospect, it does actually in essence free you from the constraints that can actually shackle and confine you, Teaching Without Limits.  There is no one way to teach or approach a lesson, however there are some key elements:

Teaching approaches should be active and creative allowing pupils to encounter the new and at times unexpected
Planning that is linked to pupils needs and interests
Immediate responses to items in the news, the weather
Age appropriate activities with a level of challenge built in
Personalised learning
Quick responses to extend, challenge but likewise know when to support
Opportunities to practice, reinforce
Consistent, positive marking and feedback
Time to reflect and respond to marking
Strong partnership with other adults in the room - T.As
Positive classroom environment

This list is by no means exhaustive, nether is it a defined, must see all elements, list it is merely some of the things that outstanding teachers strive for, think about and indeed add to and amend. Outstanding teaching evolves, changes, ebbs and flows. What it isn't is safe!

If teachers have high expectations of their pupils they also need to have high expectations of themselves whilst also being realistic. Not every lesson could or should be all singing all dancing, what they should all do though is:

(with object and infinitive or clause) Impart knowledge to or instruct someone as to how to do something

(with object) Give information about or instruction in a subject or skill

(with object and clause) Cause someone to learn or understand something by example or experience Taken from Oxford