Where lesson observations go wrong

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UPDATE: Since writing this post in July 2013 a lot has happened. Ofsted has stopped grading individual lessons and many schools have recognised the futility and harm caused by lesson grading. Here is my most recent post on the subject.

Can we define an outstanding lesson?


I get asked this regularly, and I’ve really tried. But I don’t think it’s possible. I can describe a specific example of a lesson which was judged as outstanding, but that really isn’t helpful for three reasons.

1) Stand alone lessons don’t provide evidence of much except the performance of the teacher and the students at that particular moment. This is something I went into a great deal of detail about here. Briefly, learning can only be inferred from performance. Sometimes students perform really well but have forgotten everything by the next lesson. Sometimes they perform really badly but actually seem to remember what they learned. Learning is messy and takes time. Lessons are a snap shot. As such they can be useful in helping to triangulate a judgment on teaching and learning across a whole school, but they tell us little in and of themselves.

2) ‘Outstanding’ is a chimera. You can’t bottle lightning and you can’t show someone how to be outstanding. The only thing, in my experience, which offers any kind of cast iron guarantee of progress, is a thorough knowledge of, and an excellent relationship with, your class. If you know what they know you almost can’t help but help them make progress. And this is the point: we are the experts. No one else knows our students in our classrooms as well as we do.

3) Ofsted themselves say there is no such thing as an outstanding lesson! There is just outstanding teaching quality across a school. You doubt me? Here’s what they say on their website:

Typically, inspectors would visit a series of lessons or parts of lessons, gathering evidence on different and observable elements – teaching, standards and so on – and the lesson grades awarded would be collated and used to arrive at overall judgements about the school.

Since 2009, inspectors have been instructed not to grade the overall quality of a lesson they visit.

Why do Ofsted inspectors observe individual lessons and how do they evaluate teaching in schools?

Anyone guilty of offering post lesson feedback which goes along the lines of, “I wouldn’t have done that, I’d have [insert latest faddish nonsense]” needs stringing up by their thumbs. I really don’t care what someone who is less expert than me might have done. Regardless of how vaunted their pedagogical content knowledge might be no one knows my kids in my classroom like I do. I’m happy to discuss the choices I made but please don’t tell me what you might hypothetically have done! Worse still is the observer who says, “It was great but I can’t give you a 1 because [insert stupid reason here].” There is a special hell reserved for such people.

Lesson observation, if it is to be productive and actually help teachers improve, needs to focus less on making judgements and more on teasing out teachers’ expertise. To that end the observer needs to adjust their stance and assume that the teacher knows far more about their class than they are likely to pick up in the 20 minutes or so that they hang around. Instead of making silly comments like, “That boy made no progress.” They need to ask, “Has that boy made any progress?”

Now, if as a teacher, we answer, “I don’t know.” Then we’re asking for it. We’re giving up our right to be treated like an expert. But if we can demonstrate our knowledge of said student and point (in his book) to the progress he has made over time, what rational human being could argue with this?

Observation feedback should be a series of questions with the observer genuinely trying to find out what was going on in the snapshot they were privileged to have seen. Some questions worth asking include:

  • Where does this lesson fit into your sequence of teaching?
  • What have students had to learn in order to get to this point?
  • What did they already know?
  • How will you develop what students have done so far?
  • How might the next lesson be adapted in light of what happened this lesson?
  • How do you know if students are making progress?
  • Why did you make the decision you made today?
  • Is there anything you might do differently?

Also, here are some jolly useful questions from Tom Sherington’s post on observing a sequence of lessons:

  • Is this learning activity compatible with an overall process that could lead to strong outcomes?
  • Is it reasonable for progress to be evident within this lesson or might I need to see what happens over the next week or so?
  • What general attitudes and dispositions are being modeled by teacher and students? Do they indicate positive learning-focused relationships compatible with an overall process that leads to strong outcomes?
  • Does the record of work in books and folders, with the feedback dialogue alongside the work itself, tell a better story than the content of the one-off performance in front of you?

These sorts of questions assume that teachers are professionals and make informed judgments about how and what they teach. If answers to these questions reveal confusion or uncertainty then that is where we can help. If however the answer show that the teacher has thought about their teaching and knows their students really well then that is an opportunity for us to learn.

And if you get observed by someone who is clearly an idiot? My top tip is staple a transcript of this speech from Sir Michael Wilshaw to your lesson plan, and politely inquire how and why their views differ from those of their boss.

Reclaim your expertise, and refuse to accept shoddy observation feedback!


I’d be grateful if you would add examples of some of the awful (or indeed useful) lesson observation feedback you’ve received below. Thanks.

Related posts

What’s the point of lesson observations?
Are teacher observations a waste of time?
Live Lesson Obs: Making lesson observations formative



  1. J Graves July 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Taught what I was convinced was the best obs lesson I’ve ever done. Kids all engaged, totally in charge of their own learning. Inbuilt differentiation and challenge. Lesson graded good with outstanding, all sections of form bar one ticked as 1s. Feedback “excellent lesson, kids all learnt, all engaged”. When asked what I could have done better was told ” on another day someone else would have given that outstanding. All I can say is the pace dropped slightly when the kids were working independently”. I have still not forgotten! Their only excuse was impending ofsted and a reluctance to be “brave”.

    It’s been better since………

  2. Heather F July 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    I don’t think Ofsted or anyone else should be using outstanding to grade individual lessons and I have read that Ofsted are not meant to. My reason is that ‘outstanding’ individual lessons don’t necessarily lead to outstanding learning long term. Your learning cycle posts make this very clear and I commented elsewhere that I have been known to teach a whole series of lessons that are probably just satisfactory when judged individually but I am pleased with the overall outcome. Aiming for outstanding for an individual lesson seems reasonable but in practice it forces teachers to make the lesson individually special (bells and whistles etc) when this is not necessary or sustainable. It distracts teachers from the longer term planning they should be doing, which is much harder for an Ofsted inspector to assess. Good lessons can lead to outstanding outcomes and if a school has teachers delivering lessons which are consistently good, that is outstanding,

  3. J Graves July 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Agree wholeheartedly. There’s also the time you spend with individual pupils both in and out of lessons, coaching and nurturing, that can make a huge difference to their progress. I think that if you are consistently good with excellent routines in feedback, independent learning, questioning etc then results follow. Our place has become quite astute at recognising routines and consistency in good practice which is reassuring. I no longer include bells and whistles in observed lessons and this has not affected my lesson gradings but I think the fact that I am comfortable with doing this is because I’ve been doing the job a while now!

  4. oldandrew July 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    The worst lesson observation feedback (and I’ve had this twice) that springs to my mind is “you should have done more AfL” in lessons where I’d done a lot of verbal questioning and a lot of circulating around a small class looking at students’ work and discussing it with them and knew exactly how they were getting on.

    It became apparent in discussion afterwards that the observer thought AfL meant holding up mini-whiteboards.

  5. PerpetualMotion July 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    During a short observed segment of a two hour double lesson, the class – all of them – were trying out different ways of carrying out their own version of an investigation into heat conduction. I was circulating amongst the groups, asking hard questions (why have you chosen to do it that way? what else did you think of? why is this better? have you seen what they’re doing over there? is your method better? why?), encouraging peer to peer support by sending “stuck” kids to look at the methods other students had chosen, making sure safety rules were being followed and helping with equipment problems. I was judged requires improvement because “I didn’t see you assess their progress, you knew you were being observed so you should have played the game and done a different lesson that ticked all the boxes.”

    I shan’t share my response.

  6. David Didau July 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    Thanks all, some dreadful lesson obs feedback here. Truly shocking. Our mision must be to politely, but firmly, educate SLT in how to improve teaching.

    Keep ’em coing

  7. Leadbyexample July 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm - Reply

    Sounds like you have had a bitter experience. You say taking feedback from someone less expert than yourself, but then in the next breath say you need to educate SLT. Are you SLT or very experienced. If so, why don’t you become SLT and begin leading the way and developing the skills of those you work with? Your alternative suggestion of feedback using questions is largely like the Coaching model/approach to feedback which thousands of schools across the country use and thousands of SLT use very effectively. Hardly revolutionary. In addition, using these questions to establish if you know your kids and have thought about your lesson is all good and well, but those two things don’t make a good teacher- you have to be able to deliver in the lesson. How many teachers can plan a great lesson but the reality is is that it is crap in the classroom. It’s about time we cut out the poor teaching. Consistently outstanding is outstanding. Consistently good is good. Saying ‘what if you are observed by someone who is an idiot?’- I wonder if you have expressed this in your school to your SLT? More to the point, if you are a leader of any sort, address the issue by supporting and training others to improve your profession, school and more importantly, the impact this all has on your students. Those are the ones that matter.

  8. David Didau July 14, 2013 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    When you say “Consistently outstanding is outstanding. Consistently good is good” you make the mistake of believing that you know what an outstanding lesson is. You don’t. As I’ve pointed out there is no such thing and behaving as if there is, is harmful to both staff and students.

    I am both experienced and a senior school leader. This is how I work. But, I get to visit a lot of schools and have trained teachers from all over the country. You may find it “hardly revolutionary” to take a coaching approach to lesson observations, but this is not what many teachers experience. As longs as ignorant school leaders responsible for judging the quality of teaching and using their “expertise” to force teachers to do what they mistakenly believe constitutes great teaching then there is a problem that needs rooting out and addressing.

    Or maybe you are arguing that teachers are not experts and that you, or someone else, is better placed to judge whether they are “crap in the classroom”? Hopefully not. This post by Headteacher Tom Sherrington might give you a better perspective on how school leaders can judge the quality of an individual teacher: http://headguruteacher.com/2013/06/16/planning-a-lesson-sequence-observing-a-lesson-sequence/

  9. Jon Spears July 14, 2013 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    Just had a mock Ofsted. I was observed with a new Y10 intervention group who were really quiet and lacking in confidence. I planned them an active exploration of famous speeches to encourage them to interact with each other and to begin to identify key features of the text type (which they did and then used said features in their own speech). I was dual observed and received a split judgement- notice to improve/ good. The NTI observer said I provided too much challenge and should have focused on one aspect of speech writing in depth (despite the class clearly identifying four aspects and using them with confidence). The next day I was dual observed again by a different pair- with the same intervention class- we were peer assessing their speeches from the day before. I got outstanding. Why is the important ‘discovery/ teaching’ part of the journey (which had to take place to enable the second lesson) so worthless in the eyes of inspectors? Totally insane!

  10. Craig (@cparkie) July 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm - Reply

    Another very readable post David. I have a few comments to add.

    Firstly I assume that your transition from Head of Department to SLT means that you will be potentially “attacked” from both camps. Teachers will assume that you have lost your understanding of what real teaching is, whilst some Senior leaders will see you as lacking experience as a senior leader. Enjoy the metamorphic experience!

    Secondly I think that Leadbyexample makes a valid point about poor teaching. It does exist (I’m sure that you’ll agree). His point about consistency could be to do with teachers that are always good or outstanding rather than just capable of putting on a good show when observed. This pulling-the-wool-over-the-eyes act is as harmful to pupils as brushing your teeth only minutes before you have your annual dental appointment is for your teeth.

    Finally, in your 5th paragraph you say that “…“That boy made no progress.” They need to ask, “Has that boy made any progress?”…” As a teacher I expect to be asked “What evidence is there that pupil x made progress in the lesson.” I plan my teaching so that each pupil’s progress can be demonstrated not only in the lesson being observed but over time. We complicate teaching by taking part in activities that don’t provide evidence of our impact as teachers. I want to know exactly what impact I have had on my pupils. Hattie calls it “Know Thy Impact.” If you can’t do that in your lesson then why are you doing your lesson that way?

  11. Leadbyexample July 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your reply. Does this mean that when you take up your Associate Headteacher post you will tell your staff that there is no such thing as outstanding? Will you ask them to aspire to be good? Do you believe there is a good? When you start your Headship will you carry out graded lesson Obs? And what will you do when Ofsted ask you what you think the quality of teaching in your school when the call comes? Will you quote this blog or cover your back?
    And how would you deal with a member of your staff blogging that they have been observed by another member who ‘is an idiot’?
    I too am experienced and am part of SLT. This makes me no better than the NQT down the corridor, or their opinions when they coach me. But I do think given the hundreds of lessons I have seen, I know when a lesson is outstanding, because it is better than good. If you can grade a lesson good, then you can grade one outstanding.
    If you do quote this blog and follow it through into practise then you could be (and may very well be) an inspirational leader. But I’d like my boss to get me to aim for outstanding. And when I get there aim for beyond outstanding. After all that’s what ofsted said after they visited Hartsholme Academy, the innovative school of the year 2013. We all must agree that ‘better never stops’!

  12. David Didau July 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    Craig, you’re absolutely right. We should all be asked “What evidence is there that pupil x made progress in the lesson.” Sadly this is often not the case. See the comments above.

    Leadby: I think you may have misunderstood my point. Good & outstanding are arbitrary, subjective judgements made of students’ performance. If all we’re interested in is an ability to respond to familiar cues then, really, what’s the point?

    You’re right of course to point out that I won’t be using pejorative language to describe colleagues; this is primarily a piece of polemic. And of course I do grade observation because that is a requirement of my role, but I don’t discuss the judgement during feedback. However, I do make clear to anyone who stands still long enough t listen that learning & performance need to be disassociated.

    I’ve written about these things in the linked posts above if you’re interested.

  13. Jennifer July 15, 2013 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Which silly comments do I choose from … When I was training I didn’t get a 1 because “I didn’t stick to the timings that I wrote on my lesson plan” – they were personal little reminders to keep the pace as I certainly never expect a lesson to run by a minute by minute timing guide! The second was that to get a 1 I needed “to create more humour” in my lesson. Didn’t realise I needed to be a comedian to teach! Completely agree with your comments.

  14. Elizabeth Ridout July 16, 2013 at 8:03 am - Reply

    I agree with you about the arbitrary and subjective nature of “outstanding” judgements. Two examples of terribly frustrating feedback from SLT:
    (My lesson – HOD English- Y10 poetry using drama): that was enjoyable, fascinating and an inspiring lesson. However, although last week you would have got a 1 (beware HT who has been on Ofsted training), this week you are a 2 because there was not enough differentiation. Me- I did differentiate the written response. HT- yes, but you should have differentiated the drama. Me – How? HT- I don’t know.
    (Colleague’s lesson, a teacher I rate as outstanding in every way): that was a “good” lesson. It wasn’t a 1 because Courtney had her head down on the desk for 3 minutes. (Never mind the poor kid’s headache in 30+ temperatures as the windows won’t open for H&S reasons…and her later involvement in the lesson.)
    Under PRP we have to get 2/3 obs rated as outstanding to go onto UPS. How??

    • David Didau July 22, 2013 at 11:25 am - Reply

      This is truly awful Elizabeth – if this is really how your school intends to judge PRP then it might be time to look for a new job?

  15. […] at this point. It was from the blog, The Learning Spy by David Didau. In his post entitled, “Where lesson observations go wrong,” In my Block teaching classes, we have to have so many lessons observed and then we are […]

  16. gwenelopen Nelson July 22, 2013 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Hi David,
    Here is a link to my post ‘Under the microscope’ about a similar topic from the point of view of the observed. A range of terrible, ok and good feedback from lessons that could also be described the same way!


  17. Helene O'Shea July 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    The day I realised that applying ‘interpreted’ and disaggregated OFSTED criteria for single lesson obs was nonsense:
    “It’s a 1 for everything except progress in the lesson which has to be a 2 – so it’s a 2 overall. The students have made the expected progress but not necessarily ‘outstanding progress’ in this lesson.”

    Incidentally I wouldn’t have given myself a 1 for this lesson. The last bit of it was not very good as I nervously stuck to the plan (that had taken me hours to put together) instead of letting the kids get on for longer with what they were writing; they were actually demonstrating their learning right there.

  18. sixfoot2 August 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm - Reply

    Such an interesting post, and very thought provoking comments.

    The general feeling I’m getting is that, in many cases, the observation process is actually hampering teachers’ self-confidence and ability to do the job well.

    It really is time we starting considering our performance much more holistically. As made so clear in the takenoheedofher blogpost, the way observations are structured encourages teachers to focus so much on that one lesson, that it doesn’t give a ‘snapshot’ of her performance at all. Worse than that, the flow of learning across a longer period of time is disrupted as teachers tie themselves in knots attempting to demonstrate all the strategies, skills and outcomes dictated by the ever-changing criteria against which they are to be judged.

    The amount of time takenoheedofher spent on her lesson planning for each observation would also be unrealistic as a method of regular working. (Although I’ve been advised by colleagues that I have to be able to ‘show you can deliver an outstanding lesson’ on demand, but that on a day-to-day basis there is no need to do so. For me, this is hypocritical and doesn’t necessarily lead to any real improvement in teaching).

    To then be asked to critique one’s lesson before the observer’s feedback often leads teachers to consider their work in an overly critical fashion – the mentality of ‘at least if I get in and point out the flaws first, it shows I’m aware of [insert latest OfSTED buzzword/pedagogical fad]’. I chuckled as takenoheedofher beautifully described her own feedback after one observation as being given the style of a doctor giving a terminal prognosis.

    It is a sorry state of affairs when a clearly articulate, committed and reflective teacher is left sobbing in a colleague’s office as part of ‘CPD’…

    This has to be another reason why there is such a problem retaining teachers.

  19. […] this obsession: the quality of teaching is impossible to judge objectively’), David Didau (‘where lesson observations go wrong: why do we insist on grading lesson observations?’) and Tom Sherrington (‘the snap-shot […]

  20. […] this obsession: the quality of teaching is impossible to judge objectively’), David Didau (‘where lesson observations go wrong: why do we insist on grading lesson observations?’) and Tom Sherrington (‘the snap-shot […]

  21. MELE | Pearltrees September 4, 2013 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    […] Where lesson observations go wrong […]

  22. Organising tools | Pearltrees September 18, 2013 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    […] Where lesson observations go wrong « David Didau: The Learning Spy […]

  23. D. B October 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    I had recent feedback of a maths lesson where I ‘required improvement’ in my subject knowledge, then was asked if I would teach a Level 6 booster group. Hmmm

    • David Didau October 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      What, straight away? By the same person?

      How offensive!

  24. Carol Lawson October 12, 2013 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Was teaching phase 4 phonics lesson – learning to spell ‘was’ and learning to blend and read new words. All children achieved but I was still graded as RI by the dreaded O because three children looked as though they should be working at phase 2 or 3. Actually they’re 5 years old and looking at the ceiling or away from me for 2 seconds helps them to not fidget. Grrrrr.

  25. Sarah Pinkerton October 14, 2013 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and tips here on how to make observations more effective and rewarding for the observed. Your right, far too often observations become reduced to summative judgements and terrible feedback. Feedback is the make or break supportive/effective CPD, the experiences listed above by different teachers is awful. I’ll be sharing your questions and approaches with my fellow colleagues.

  26. Paul Ibbott October 26, 2013 at 12:58 pm - Reply

    A music lesson was graded 2. I asked what I could do to make it a 1. “Give it a few more weeks,” was the reply.

  27. shah October 26, 2013 at 10:10 pm - Reply

    This blog and the comments that have been shared have really been insightful and thought provoking-
    to quote David, “Lesson observation, if it is to be productive and actually help teachers improve, needs to focus less on making judgements and more on teasing out teachers’ expertise.” Would like to add this in my room.

  28. […] also about observing lessons I have been reading various articles and blogs and came across David Didau’s ‘Where Lesson Observations Go Wrong’. Many of David’s comments really struck a chord with me, particularly his comment ‘no […]

  29. […] lessons is pretty useless. Or so I think. David Didau makes a good case for this in one of his blog posts I read a while back. But just because I don’t agree that sharing judgements with staff can […]

  30. Anthony B November 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm - Reply

    I was teaching a difficult group who are generally tough to engage. Got a ‘requires improvement’ for working too hard!! Well i am sorry!

  31. […] Where lesson observations go wrong Why can’t we tell a good teacher through lesson observations? The problem with progress Part 1: Learning vs Performance […]

  32. […] Can we define an outstanding lesson? No. I get asked this regularly, and I’ve really tried. But I don’t think it’s possible. I can describe a specific example of a lesson which was judged as outstanding, but that really isn’t helpful for two reasons.  […]

  33. […] When lesson observations go wrong July 2013 […]

  34. under pressure November 23, 2013 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    Hello all. Its great to hear that loads of teachers have been and are going through the SLT hoops where the interpretation of the OFsted criteria has been used to push us into an outstanding teacher. CPD on growth mind set and at the end after thanking the speaker a member of SLT reminded us that target grades needed to be on front covers for the start of term 4???!!

    But on a positive note I am reminded that 14 years ago I was told that getting other students to mark students work was……………..seen as lazy.

  35. […] The Learning Spy blog, David Didau wrote a blog post titled “Where Lesson Observations Go Wrong“. I really like some of the points David makes. He talks about how it is very difficult to […]

  36. […] 7. Where lesson observations go wrong 12 July – 11,626 views […]

  37. […] lesson observation become the new Brain Gym? Where lesson observations go wrong Get ahead of the curve: stop grading […]

  38. […] ‘showing progress’. And, despite some pretty convincing arguments that attempting to show progress in a lesson is futile,  it still seems to be a very common idea. A google search for ‘how do you show progress in […]

  39. Mark February 5, 2014 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this – it has made my day and congratulations on the Ofsted book which is a gem. I have just got back from an interview today where I was asked to teach a class of year 10s and referred to the reading paper (Welsh Board). I devised a lesson based around inference which included reading, speaking and listening group work and self and peer assessment. It went well for me and every child gave me a thumbs up.

    I was part of the group that was shown the door within an hour and told that it was because the pupils did not do any writing.

    Have I missed something?

  40. […] become the new Brain Gym? Why can’t we tell a good teacher through lesson observations? Where lesson observations go wrong Don’t trust your gut: a little bit more on the problem with grading lessons How can we make […]

  41. angry teacher April 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Totally agree. I have suddenly gone from being a consistently outstanding / good teacher in inspections from Ofsted, County Council and school observations to requires improvement in three consecutive lessons. Have I suddenly become a rubbish teacher? No! My school has employed an outside person who knows niether me or the children I teach to come in and carry out observations. They seem to take a dislike to my teaching style. The very teaching style Ofsted praised highly only a year ago for its flair and creativity. I did an identical style of lesson to my Ofsted one adapting it as appropriate to the age of my class and their particular needs. Ofsted grading Good with many outstanding features. Recent observation grade Requires improvement.

    I fought my corner, argued my case, even supplied evidence but was still told by my head she took the consultant’s opinion over my professional judgement. 5 years of loyal service. No back up. It is all wrong.

  42. Herinetta April 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Hi Everyone……………I work for a further education institution…I thought I had developed a lot of teaching confidence over my years of teaching, I have always had a grade 2 or 1.
    However last year (as many of you are aware) the requirements of Ofsted changed and a grade grade 1 last year in now grade 2. A grade 2 last year is now a grade 3. etc I have tried to adapt to the new Ofsted critera, Unfortunately I have now had two grade 3,s in a row and I am now on the Intervention programme. is there any one else experiencing the same thing and are there any tips that any-body can give……..If so how did you overcome this?.This has real knocked my confidence .

    • Kirstie stapleton February 5, 2015 at 6:12 pm - Reply

      I am ‘relieved’ to see that other good to outstanding teachers are now finding themselves graded as needs improvement as I know that I am not the only one! I have nearly 14 years experience and find myself feeling like a complete failure. I used to be the one observing others and I gave positive feedback. All I have received feedback wise is ‘the flow wasn’t right’ or ‘yes they showed that they had made progress but that wasnt enough’. Now thinking of doing supply work even though the money is rubbish.

      • Sarah Callaghan February 11, 2015 at 11:35 am - Reply

        I am experiencing the same and it is ‘reassuring’ to share this with others who are feeling the same. Head is supportive to an extent but still has her agenda and I am scared that I too will have to go on an ‘intervention programme’. I have had to redo a coup;e of observations over the last couple of years which have always come out ‘good’. i had 3s last week and am beginning to lose the will to turn up anymore! I can’t deal with the constant scrutiny and constantly narrowing of the goal posts. I find the whole process demoralising and stressful. I too am thinking of supply, at least I can turn up and then go home without the constant pressure and doubts that I can actually teach anymore.

        • MissB April 24, 2015 at 6:53 pm - Reply

          This thread has given me some comfort. Having worked in an excellent/outstanding school for 13 years (where I received good feedback) I have moved to a new school this academic year. I have been observed 3 times and had positive (not graded) feedback. However this week I was observed by our new head and received RI judgement because I didn’t show enough progress in the time the observers were in the room. I was not asked if the children had made progress or to show what they achieved in the remainder of the lesson. I’m intrigued to know how they knew the children hadn’t made progress. The whole experience was very demoralising and so far removed from any previous feedback 🙁

    • Sylvie December 15, 2015 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      I fel for you, I’m going through exactly the same thing. After all these years of “Good”s and a fair few “outstanding”s I now have a Lilac Sky coach to help me ,earn how to teach. Confidence crisis is how I’d describe it. Now on an action plan which includes going into other schools to see how to do it.

  43. […] November 2013 Why can’t we tell a good teacher through lesson observations? 23rd August 2013 When lesson observations go wrong – the need to reclaim our professional expertise 12th July 2013 Live lesson obs – making […]

  44. […] Where lesson observations go wrong 12th July 2013 – 11,820 […]

  45. […]   […]

  46. Steve November 17, 2014 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I taught a lesson to my class of 15 children. As I have a small class I am able to set individual Learning Objectives according to the needs of each child. I was given a good and not an outstanding as I did not have a learning objective written on the white board! I explained to the inspector that I had differentiated LO’s for my class pasted into their books. NO NOT good enough! I have to just laugh!

  47. […] is a special hell reserved for such people,” says David Didau in his blog The Learning Spy https://www.learningspy.co.uk/featured/where-lesson-observations-go-wrong/, where he explains what bad lesson observation looks like and how it should be done. First and […]

  48. Grainne January 13, 2015 at 9:07 pm - Reply

    I agree completely with this but how do we find a balance between this system and dealing with staff where there are real, deep-seated T&L issues? Eg the ‘can’t do, won’t do’ people? We’re finding it so hard in this way.

  49. Marc dean January 25, 2015 at 2:23 pm - Reply

    Once you have had your observation and no feedback given, do you allow to have another observation done if asked to do so.

  50. Heather Scott December 17, 2015 at 11:42 am - Reply

    Hello, I’ve just read this and I really wish I had had it in my armoury when I was still teaching (I’ve left the profession sadly). My breaking point was what can only be described as one of the most horrific observation experiences of my 11 year career. We were a special measures school aiming for “Good”. As a result we had “department reviews” lasting over 2 days. My day started with a learning walk where 6 members of SLT from my school and another school walked into my classroom and questioned my students. With the TA that meant 8 members of staff and 30 kids in my room.
    That afternoon I had another observation. It was 30 minutes of a 2 hour lesson bottom set year 9 history class where half the students were EAL. We were doing the Treaty of Versailles. I split the class of into groups, there was pairing and sharing and differentiation (the class was a difficult one to manage). At the end of the lesson, my TA and I actually high fived each other we thought the lesson had gone so well. I was pretty confident. I went to my feedback and was told that I was unsatisfactory. It was a scathing 45 minute session which left me in tears. The thing is, I know I wasn’t a bad teacher, my TA followed the class everywhere and said that it was one of the most productive lessons she’d seen them in. That one observation and the following feedback and onslaught from SLT made me glad to leave teaching. I became a nervous wreck. At the end of the academic year, when GCSE options came in over half of my students had picked history. Now how is that the work of an unsatisfactory teacher?
    I really worry for the future of education.

  51. […] Where lesson observations go wrong July 2013 […]

  52. Andy February 7, 2016 at 12:13 am - Reply

    I got told that I didn’t get my students into groups to discuss the verbs in their assignment brief, when the whole part of the session that was observed was about breaking down grading criteria!!!

  53. Claire October 5, 2016 at 9:45 pm - Reply

    I find the whole experience of observations equates to a nightmare. We over plan the lessons to be taught; often neglecting the more important teaching & learning of the day. The aftermath results in a tick sheet that is read and scrutinised by the Head & SLT. One feels like ones jobs are at stake and that to continue teaching is futile. It feels as if we are a number: a dot to the i; a cross for the t. Observations where feedback feels negative & worthless is another reason for teachers leaving the profession. Teachers need reasons to stay.

  54. Jim Kent December 11, 2016 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Thanks David. Am sending a copy of this to reviewer. Most awful practice going on. No inquiry into what I am doing or why followed by what was good then what was wrong and instruction on how to fix it referencing own practice. Also included suggestion that dividers in files are the way to improve learning. This type of one dimensional leadership abounds and seems to be the consequence of a lack of reflective leadership and leadership CPD.

    Keep up the good work!

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