Does Grading Improve Teaching? by @Mroberts90Matt

Context

With the release of the New Osted Handbook recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the various changes detailed therein. Twitter is one of the places where such discussions are taking place, which seems appropriate considering my latest blog post encouraging teachers to make their voice heard on platforms such as Twitter. Many views have been expressed and comments made.

One of the changes that I have been personally involved in a bit over the past few days is around the grading of lessons in lesson observations and the value of this practice. There was a great blog post written by @Primary1Teacher (see here) about this change. He states that the grading of lessons is a practice that should not be abandoned and helps avoid any misinterpretation about where a teacher is in their practice and where they need to go. A well articulated blog post and one well worth a read. I’ve also had the opportunity to view and take part in a Twitter discussion with @gazneedle, @LearningSpy and @regierob and others around lesson grading, which brought up a number of points and views. One view that came up that is important to consider is that lesson grading gives the senior leadership a quantitative way to see how effective the teaching is across their school.

Lesson Observations - to grade or not to grade?
Lesson Observations – to grade or not to grade?

Discussion

As mentioned by others, there are positives to grading lessons. One is that if a lesson is graded it does give some sort of measurable value for leaders to look at to see where improvements need to be made in their school. It gives an overall snapshot of what teaching is going on in their school.

It could be argued, however, that lesson observations are not an effective means of determining quality of teaching that goes on in a classroom. It is possible (and it does go on I believe) that there are great teachers that do not thrive in the created pressure of a lesson observation, formal or informal. This phenomenon can be likened to a child who in class can time and time again show that they have accrued great knowledge, understanding or skills in a subject area. However, when put into an exam situation they are unable to replicate the same evidence due to the conditions.

The example of an exam situation for a child brings to my thought process another point. In exams, children are often described as having to jump through certain hoops to get the points they need for a particular grade. As I’m sure many have noticed, the Ofsted Handbook now states that not one teaching style will be preferred over another. In other words, Ofsted will be ‘looking at’ the teaching in front of them, not ‘looking for’ certain criteria to be met (this is mentioned further in David Didau’s excellent blog post here). This will lead to greater scrutiny on children’s progress, work and responses rather than the one off lesson they see on the day. I think we’d all celebrate the fact that teachers are being given more room to teach to a style that suits them and not one prescribed by Ofsted (as long as progress is being made). This does mean, however, that grading individual lessons will be problematic as there are not specific things being looked for.

If lessons should be continued to be graded, how could it be ensured that each lesson will be fairly graded when there is now no ‘grading criteria’ of one perfect teaching style (which we all know there isn’t one anyway, even if Ofsted tried to suggest there was). There are suggestions that even when Ofsted did have a set of things to look for, lesson observations are subjective processes anyway. What one observer may consider to be innovative, another may feel is unnecessary.

I personally feel that it isn’t possible to effectively grade a lesson between 4 areas. How do you discern between a lesson that is extremely ‘Outstanding’ and only just ‘Outstanding’. One look at the Teaching Standards shows that there are a large number of factors that can influence how good a lesson really is. To try and allocate one judgement from many factors can cause confusion and inaccurate results. Now of course, the debate of whether a lesson observation should be considered as an effective method of determining the quality of teaching is another debate. However, it is clear that judging the quality of teaching into a particular ‘grade’ (which can have a great impact on the professional themselves) can sometimes be one that has it’s issues, more so than simply giving a teacher five things they can do to improve and them working on those.

Conclusion

There are many things to take into account when considering whether it’s worth awarding a lesson a certain grade. However, I would lean toward the point that it is a little value to give a grade on a lesson. This is not to protect the feelings of the teacher, whilst some would consider this important. However, my views on this derive from the fact that lesson observations can be unreliable anyway and that I personally don’t see the point. Whether I am an Outstanding teacher or one that Requires Improvement, I just need to know what I need to change to make myself a better teacher and one that provides the best learning experiences for the children in my class.

Should lessons be graded? Will that be an effective method of improving teaching and learning?
Should lessons be graded? Will that be an effective method of improving teaching and learning?

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/sprengben/5441103463/”>Sprengben [why not get a friend]</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalexanderson/5592994934/”>Kalexanderson</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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3 thoughts on “Does Grading Improve Teaching? by @Mroberts90Matt

  1. You make a lot of good points Matt.
    I agree.

    As I wrote: 01/06/14 when ‘no grading’ was being discussed.

    “I want to get better – that is my aim.

    I do this not by external judgement, I do this by continuing to learn.

    There are many teachers I know who still cling to the ‘judgement’.

    “He said it was GOOD, so I’m alright.” or “Requires Improvement?! Rubbish, what does she know?!”

    I feel for them, if they decide they are alright, what is next? How precisely do they intend to improve?

    I like it when someone visits me and gives me clear and honest feedback, I like that culture. Those formal and informal comments about anything that goes on, followed by, “Have you thought about…?”, ” I read that…” I don’t necessarily need to be given a label as I once did.

    It comes to the culture of leadership and development.

    What do we as teachers want from observation? Validation or Development.

    If it is the first, then we might have an issue, but if what we really want and need, if what we can convince SLT, governors, LA and OfSted is that we just want to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday we might get somewhere.

    We might do it smiling too.”

    @johnpearce_jp: (07-05-14)
    Judgement without action is thinking without doing.

    Like

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