Can you show ‘true’ progress within 25 minutes? And, how much of a limiting factor should progress be?
Some of our thinking within leadership in this area has been discussed in the blog around the ‘catastophism of student progress’. Suffice to say, progress certainly isn’t linear; you only have to look at our own careers to see that. Progress loops and dips and staggers before it leaps and bounds:
So, why should we ‘hang’ our observation grades on ‘progress’? Yes- because our students deserve success. So, what’s wrong with this observation structure? The answer is simple; it encourages a teacher to ‘shine’ for 25 minutes once a term. Our students need us to ‘shine’ every single time we stand in front of them.
As Aristotle once said, ‘Excellence is a habit’ and, as discussed in the blog ‘Greatness isn’t born, it’s Grown’, Dan Coyle has stated that greatness isn’t something we’re born with; practising skills over and over again is the key as ‘each time we reach and repeat we earn another layer’. So, to become and great teacher, who will create great learners, we need to practise our skills day in, day out. So, as a school leader, how do you encourage habits over performance?
You change the way you grade your teachers.
Is grading a teacher on a 25 minute slot fair? Probably not. Is the answer to ditch the grades as other bloggers have suggested? Probably not. Is research conducted on one source of information considered fair? Probably not. You need to triangulate your data.
Rather than focus on progress shown in just 25 minutes, we need to focus on progress over time; following on from the conditions in the classroom we’ve just been in for 25 minutes, would students be able to show outstanding progress over time?
This approach should certainly be fairer- staff can point at progress over time through their book marking, achievement data, student voice and outcomes. Not only that but they can signpost their future thinking/ planning in medium term plans as well as the individual lesson to show how they’re adapting and differentiating for the class. Staff who make a habit of ‘shining’ for their students will be rewarded with Good or Outstanding grades:
As such, our observation form changed again to highlight the importance of progress over time (removing the need for staff to ‘perform’ and show progress no matter what stage of the year/ scheme of work/ curriculum.)