Observing teaching during COVID-19

Observing teaching during COVID-19

Andy Goodeve Andy Goodeve
Rebecca Howitt Rebecca Howitt
October 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing schools and colleges to have to operate in highly challenging and rapidly changing circumstances. They are required to rapidly implement a wide range of ever-changing control measures to ensure that staff, pupils and visitors are safe, as well as provide quality educational provision, both on-site and remotely, that meets the needs of children and young people.

Schools and colleges are faced with a number of challenging questions that include:

  • How are we ensuring our children and young people are receiving a quality educational provision?
  • How are teachers coping and what support is needed?
  • Do the teachers know if they are delivering quality teaching?
  • Will monitoring increase the pressure on the teaching staff?
  • How do we monitor online delivery?

It is clear some degree of monitoring must take place, but it is the type and amount of monitoring that needs careful planning to achieve the desired outcome. In these times, schools and colleges are evaluating their current practices in order to achieve the desired outcome. Education is now different and therefore practices need to evolve.

It is clear that discretionary lesson observations, learning walks and drop-ins, may, at this time, be difficult to administer, and may not serve a useful purpose, as they may not be a true reflection of the quality of teaching.

There is nothing in the government’s guidance that explicitly prohibits lesson observations, or senior leaders visiting classrooms this term or in the future. However, these observations do pose increased risks and appropriate additional protective measures need to be put in place. 

  • What impact will these observations truly have on the judgment of teaching and learning?. 

Ensuring the right culture is in place will be the key to answering the questions. School leaders need to promote a culture for teachers to believe in their own ability to deliver high-quality lessons. For them to have an understanding of quality teaching and an awareness that teaching is not a performance, with fancy PowerPoint presentations and endless bespoke resources. High-quality teaching and learning is bought out of dialogue and discussion, knowing the position of the children and young people and what they need next and not producing lots of paper.

With this in mind, many schools and colleges are choosing to pursue a route that develops the staff through self-review and reflection. The staff feel empowered, confident and are willing to reflect on their teaching and wellbeing, where the outcomes are used for professional development. Quality feedback is known to have the most impact on learning and self-reflection develops a staff growth mindset: craving feedback and a willingness to improve. The positives are shared with others and the areas for development are used to focus their own professional development. There is an expectation that everyone has something that can be shared with others and everyone has something that they can improve. A coaching culture is developed that signposts staff to each other to engage in professional discussions.

The SchooliP system embraces this shift in thinking. The platform allows self-reflection templates to be created, as well as the opportunity to embrace video observations, where staff are easily able to self reflect through annotation.

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