Life Beyond Lesson Grades by @chizkent

The marshalling of assessment evidence

In September 2015 our Senior Leadership Team decided to stop grading lessons. The approach is well documented by bloggers like @headteacherguru , @teachertoolkit and @DavidDidau. I have written a blog in my Pedagogical Ramblings series outlining our approach at Warden House for lesson observations based on the 5 Minute Lesson Review. Now we have undertaken a cycle of observing our teachers using the 5 Minute Lesson Review, it is clear our teachers have gained greatly from a process whose focal point is their professional development rather than a grade. While this process is positive for our teachers, we remain anxious as an SLT that we no longer hold a piece of paper that defines the quality of teaching for each of our fifteen teachers.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Graham Chisnell and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found hereSee more posts here.

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Ofsted’s view on lesson grades is made clear in the current inspection framework (September 2015). Page 11 of the School Inspection Framework states:

“Ofsted does not award a grade for the quality of teaching or outcomes in the individual lessons visited. It does not grade individual lessons. It does not expect schools to use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons.”

This direction to inspectors ensures that swift judgements are not made regarding the quality of teaching during an inspection and that an inspector must form their judgements once a range of evidence has been considered.

The School Inspection Framework on page 11 goes on to state: “Ofsted does not require schools to undertake a specified amount of lesson observation.”

Again, a clear direction to inspectors that there are no set expectations for the quantity, and I would argue the format of lesson observations undertaken in school, but rather a focus on the impact lesson observations have in assuring the quality of teaching and learning is strong. With this in mind, the key to lesson observations is that they empower the teacher to move their practice on through mentoring-coaching and provide the senior staff and governors with a clear picture of the quality of provision in the school as part of a wider evidence base observed over time.

Our experience of the 5 Minute Lesson Review as part of a mentor-coaching approach to teacher development is very positive at Warden House. Teachers state the process is challenging as it targets an area of their own vulnerability and developmental, as it encourages the teacher to become strong in this targeted area. The conversations held between teacher and mentor-coach before and after the observation lead to deep learning. This process clearly ticks the box for empowering the teacher to move their practice on, but what about the picture of the quality of teaching?

Sitting in an Ofsted team meeting recently, it was apparent that the lead inspector used their skills of marshalling evidence presented by the team inspectors. The lead inspector questioned and tested the evidence presented by the team inspectors to form a judgement on the quality of teaching based on a range of evidence accrued during the inspection. This marshalling of evidence provides a strong model for evaluating the quality of teaching over time, so we set about using these principles to allow the members of the SLT to share their evidence base when forming one key judgement for our teachers; was the quality of their teaching and the outcomes for children as a result of their teaching at least good?

The marshalling meeting begins with the SLT sat around a table with all the ungraded evidence to hand. Evidence includes the ungraded 5 minute lesson reviews, work scrutiny notes, action plans formed as subject leaders and the wider knowledge of the teacher.  Each member of the SLT speaks about the evidence they hold of a given teacher and reflect on the quality of their teaching.  This deep conversation about the quality of teaching is a humbling experience.  It allows all members of the SLT to hear the rich evidence base and to question the validity of this in forming a picture of the development of the teacher.

After marshalling the evidence, I ask a key question of the SLT to form a consensus; “with all the evidence presented, do you judge the quality of teaching for this teacher to be at least good?” This allows the team leaders to ensure they are in agreement and we affirm the key areas for development the teacher is working on, the timescale for completion and which member of the SLT is responsible for mentor-coaching the teacher to achieve their goal.  This judgement of being ‘at least good’ we feel was the only necessary grading as it aligns to the minimum standard expected of teachers across our school although the purists amongst you must be screaming “just dump the grade altogether!” We feel the final judgement is a necessary step for us (your thoughts welcome as always).

The marshalling meeting allows the SLT and myself as principal to have a deep conversation about our teachers.  The conversation is celebratory at times as we share the success stories presented by each team member.  The conversation is also challenging at times as we find some teachers clearly required a more challenging level of support.  As a result, the marshalling has raised our collective understanding of the quality of teaching across the school and empowered us as a team to be smart about where we target our mentoring support, providing the greatest support where the greatest need lies.  Our teachers, without the necessity to grade their work, are free to focus on improving their practice through mentoring and are far more open to challenge and support.

Our first marshalling meeting was very informative and as a result, our SLT have a deep understanding of the quality of teaching across the school.  Our teachers have clearly defined CPD targets as a result of their 5 minute lesson review and the support provided through mentoring-coaching is targeted on the greatest need.  As a result, teachers grow, teaching improves and outcomes for pupils strengthen.

From here, as this is our first cycle of marshalling, we now need to consider:

  1. the long term impact of this approach on the quality of teaching
  2. how to share this process with our governors and consider their engagement in the marshalling meetings.
  3. how to share this practice across schools to see how it works in a range of settings (I welcome your views dear Twitter audience should you undertake a similar process or try this out with your team).

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