Ofsted considers its options on lesson observation

Ofsted is evaluating six international lesson observation models as it considers how to rate schools from next year.

The watchdog’s inspectors will follow a new inspection framework from September 2019, and Ofsted is currently critically evaluating its current lesson observation practice as it prepares the new document.

Lesson observation is a “fundamental part of inspection that deserves focused attention” but must “keep pace” with “significant developments” seen in international practice in recent years, the inspectorate says in a new report published today.

In a foreword, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said the international models “provide a number of areas for Ofsted to investigate as we develop our new framework and refine how we evaluate quality of teaching”.

The report noted that Ofsted does not grade teachers, but rather uses observation as part of an overall judgement, and said any change to lesson observation “needs to be done with this whole-school context in mind”.

Although it measures pupil learning, this measure was absent from all six international approaches which felt that learning is “invisible and happens over a long period of time. It is not something that can be directly observed.”

The inspectorate will now “reflect further” before deciding how the models can “develop the validity and reliability of Ofsted’s current observation model” and will test alternative lesson observation models in the summer and autumn terms this year.

The outcomes of the trials will feed into the 2019 inspection framework.

Classroom assessment scoring system

Originating in the US, CLASS is an “observational tool” that assesses the effectiveness of classroom interactions between teachers and students and how they promote social and academic development.

Rather than just evaluating teacher performance, CLASS links teacher behaviours with student achievement. The models focus is on “enhancing the overall relationship between teachers and students and their learning”.

It measures three types of interaction – emotional support, classroom organisation and instructional support – and involves four cycles of 15 minute observations of teachers and students.

Framework for teaching

Framework for teaching uses a “constructivist view” of learning and teaching and claims to be the most widely used definition of teaching in America.

Rather than an observation tool, the framework is a set of teacher standards focusing on planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities, all linked to pupils’ learning.

Observers measure teacher performance on a four-point scale, ranging from ‘unsatisfactory’ to ‘distinguished’, as well as conducting teacher and student questionnaires.

International comparative analysis of learning and teaching

Originating in the Netherlands, ICLAT focuses on the link between teaching and academic achievement.

It includes a mixture of factual observations, such as how many times pupils give correct answers, and high-inference subjective judgements on teaching ability.

ICLAT focuses on six measures: safe learning climate, classroom management, clear instruction, teaching methods that motivate pupils to think about the topic, learning strategies and how well teachers meet individual students’ learning needs.

International system for teacher observation and feedback

ISTOF was designed by an international team to work across borders and enable feedback on teaching as well as collecting research data.

Participating countries identified 11 areas for effective teaching: assessment and evaluation, clarity of instruction, classroom climate, classroom management, differentiation and inclusion, instructional skills, planning of single lessons, long-term planning, teacher knowledge, teacher professionalism, and how well a teacher promotes active learning and developing metacognitive skills.

Observations are carried out either in person or through video.

Mathematical quality of instruction

Another American framework, MQI focuses on assessing maths teaching. It does not measure areas like classroom environment as it argues that work that occurs in the classroom is “distinct from classroom climate, pedagogical style or using generic instructional strategies”.

MQI measures how students engage with mathematical content, how teachers work with students and maths, the “richness” of mathematics taught, teacher errors and imprecision and how classroom work develops mathematical ideas.

Maths lessons are videoed and broken down into seven-and-a-half minute segments which are watched by two observers per segment, who provide overall teacher scores as well as scores for each measure. All observers are supervised weekly to ensure consistency.

Generic dimensions of teacher quality

Also known as “the German framework of three basic dimensions”, GDTQ has no standardised rubric or training manual.

Rather than a uniform lesson observation model, the framework measures teaching quality. It focuses on many different subcategories, including disruptions and discipline problems, teacher-student relationships, and challenging tasks and questions.

Although it began with a focus on maths teaching, the framework has now been used for many different subjects, school types and educational systems and “provides a clear categorisation of a complex phenomenon (teacher quality)”.