What now? Evaluating teaching and learning without lesson grades


I’ve been following this week’s developments regarding Ofsted and lesson grading on Twitter and thought I’d put down some thoughts.

What will we use instead? – The core elements to evaluate teaching & learning

Marking – currently seen as one of the keys to showing progress. However does this work for all subjects? Should it be given such a big weighting in evaluation of teaching? Do we need to create more structured systems so marking across a school/s is comparable? Life without levels?

Mark book – if used effectively it is where short term achievement and progress will be visible. It will also record attitude to work including completion of homework. However, does everyone use a mark book? Should it be compulsory? Can it be used in subjects that don’t using conventional marking to show achievement and progress?

Planning – some schools insist on submitting/sharing planning. Should this be the norm?

Student comments – controversial but essential if you want to know what’s working, don’t you take into account the consumer view? Do we include the attitude to their learning?

Results – seems obvious but highly complex. How many teachers teach the same students through a whole key stage or across key stages? Students change classes. Subjects have different teaching allocations. Teachers teach different amounts of classes. 

Support staff – they’re in the room. They see what really happens. They see at least one student’s progress. But would teachers be happy with this? How could they be used to evaluate teaching?

Lesson study – should this be used to evaluate or to purely develop without judgement? I’m sure there are schools that will use it to judge.

Coaching – proven to have the potential to have a large impact on the development of teaching but should it be used to judge? 

Parent comments – probably more controversial than student comments. Should they be asked? When I was assessed for AST I had to present parent views to the assessor.

Student behaviour – highly controversial. Should we be using data from ‘on call’/inclusion/withdrawal to evaluate the behaviour of students being taught by a particular teacher? 

Observations – without grades how would they be used? Just to collect the appropriate elements from above? Or as part of a coaching model?

How will it be evaluated and recorded?

I love a good spreadsheet. I love to use filters. The problem is that spreadsheets need numbers. 

Will we give each aspect of teaching a weighting? A grade? a comment from a taxonomy of comments?

How will leaders pull together all this information to create a whole picture of a teacher and their teaching?

One way is to develop a teacher portfolio. Each member of staff will have their own folder which contains ‘evidence’ of each of the core elements, including a record of any coaching/discussions had about them. A little like the QTS/AST/UPS folders that we’ve all produced at some point. It would include records of CPD, exemplar work etc. It could be arranged by teacher standards. If all schools did this, it could be a part of the interview process if applying for a new job.

Will the alternative to dropping lesson grades be more work for teachers?

Up until now, there are some teachers in some schools who could have 3 observations in a year and that’s it. That’s the only time anyone goes near them and their teaching. The ‘benefit’ of this for some is that whilst it was a stressful 3x60mins planning and teaching, once it was done, as long as it was OK that was it. The spot light was off them.

Now, if we start to move to those things I’ve outlined above and more, things become a little more intense for teachers. No longer will a snapshot be enough. You can’t ‘put on’ long term evidence of the core elements. There is a lot more to ‘do’ than to plan and teach a lesson.

How long will it take for leadership teams and schools to change?

I have never given NQTs lesson observation grades. I’ve used the NQT/teaching standards as a focus and fed back using them. However many NQTs have asked ‘what grade was it?’ I never gave a grade. 

I also know many people that have observed NQTs and given them grades. In most cases the NQT takes the number and less of the feedback.

We’re obsessed with grades! 

Unless something clear and prescriptive comes from the Dfe or Ofsted it will be a slow process. 

Implications of changes

Teacher training needs to change. No more grading lessons. Trainees would need to focus more specifically on the core elements. No more passing teachers to meet % targets of good/outstanding.

PRP will need to focus on the development shown across the elements. No recording of grades to determine pay. Huge issues with subjectivity are possible.

Leadership at middle and senior levels will change. If we scrap the 3 lesson observations a year, the time spent with a line manager should shift. Leverage Leadership clearly outlines a model of short but frequent meetings. Meetings with a specific focus on teaching and learning, in my scenario focussing on one or more of the core elements. Quality time should be spent with each teacher in developing. No more rushed feedback or no feedback at all.

CPD will have a strong focus on the core elements. It needs to be carefully differentiated.No ‘one session for all’ sitting in a hall. Much more sharing and coaching.

It seems that real change is in the air. A significant change, not just in grading lessons, but in the whole way that teaching & learning will be evaluated. However there is the need for the new elements to come from real life practitioners. It cannot be fully left to individual schools otherwise you will get rogue practice (there are many horror stories from just grading lessons!) yet there needs to be flexibility for schools to adapt to their own context. Exciting times.