A lesson observation is the only way to see how teaching works in a school.
If you are not a teacher and have no training in teaching I cannot recommend highly enough that you find a way to observe a lesson at a school. I’m sure you’ll be impressed. Schools won’t thank me for suggesting it, but a lesson observation is the only way to see what goes on in a classroom.
Teaching has moved on
Teaching has moved on considerably from when most of us were at school. Your recollections of monotonous droning and copying notes verbatim from the blackboard will probably be similar to mine. But it’s not like that any more. There’s a great deal of planning and thought that goes into lessons today.
So to help you with your lesson observation I’ve compiled a mini quiz. Answer 1, 2 or 3 to each question and see how you get on.
#1. Do the pupils seem interested and are they participating in the lesson?
- Yes, the pupils appear enthused, engaged with the lesson and motivated. The teacher is maintaining their concentration and they are well behaved.
- The pupils are smiling and looking intently at the teacher.
- A few pupils are playing with their phones, a couple are fighting over an upturned bag. That’s kids for you. However, the teacher is a crack shot with the chalk and the blackboard rubber. She soon brought them to order.
#2. Does the lesson have a structure?
- The lesson has a beginning, middle and end. The pupils look as though they are on a journey and they know where they are on it.
- The pupils look very smart.
- There is a loud buzzer that sounds over the intercom when the lesson ends.
#3. What resources does the teacher use to assist teaching?
- The teacher uses a variety of resources to communicate; verbal, visual, technology, outdoor, even outside visitors and trips.
- It’s a sunny day and the classroom looks very nice.
- The teacher needs only a blackboard and chalk.
#4. Does the teacher demonstrate subject knowledge?
- Yes, the teacher articulates relevant subject expertise using examples and cross references.
- The teacher is very smiley and good looking.
- Mmm, the teacher is reading from a book.
#5. Does the teacher differentiate the class by ability group?
- Yes, the teacher differentiates by ability group and using different techniques to teach to each of them. Everyone ends up at the same place on this journey, though the routes might be different.
- I can only see the front row of children and they are all smiling, some with their hands up.
- The pupils are sitting in rows of desks.
#6. Does the teacher engage with the pupils?
- Yes, the teacher interacts with the pupils, encouraging participation from everyone, not just the eager.
- The teacher leans over the desk and points in an exaggerated manner at something. Everyone is smiling.
- Not really. The teacher is scrawling on a blackboard with her back to the class for most of the lesson.
#7. Does the teacher help pupils to learn by making mistakes?
- The teacher allows pupils to take risks to learn and make mistakes in a safe and constructive environment. She gives plenty of positive feedback and encouragement.
- No one makes mistakes, everything is perfect at this school.
- Oh yes, one chap had to stand in a dustbin with a dunce’s hat on while the rest of the class ridiculed him. He’ll learn!
#8. Is the lesson teacher led, pupil led, or both?
- Yes, the teacher creates opportunities to put learning into practice in a mix of teacher led and pupil led activities.
- The teacher does a lot of smiling, the pupils smile back at her.
- Teacher led. The teacher is the only person who speaks in class.
#9. Is there regular assessment and marking of work?
- The teacher assesses and marks work in a timely and consistent manner.
- Everyone’s still smiling.
- The summer exams will prove who’s been listening and who hasn’t.
#10. Has the teacher noticed you taking this quiz in the lesson observation?
- Yes, she says that the headmaster, head of department and her peers regularly observe her lessons, as she observes theirs. It’s part of the training. She is looking forward to my constructive feedback.
- I think so, she’s still smiling.
- No, I’m not sure she’s even noticed that I’m in the room.
How did you get on with your lesson observation?
If your lesson observation score was mostly 1s you can feel very confident about the school and the quality of the lessons. If you scored mostly 2s you’ve spent too much time in school marketing brochure land and now believe everything you read. But if you scored mostly 3s you’re having a recurring nightmare about your own school days. Quick! Wake up before you have to go on stage, naked.