GROWing your teachers.
I recently tweeted a photograph of our lesson observation proforma that we use at my school, Bridgwater College Academy and to my absolute amazement it got favourited and retweeted over 100 times.
It is, as you can see, just a blank sheet of paper; no tick boxes, no grade boxes, no WWW and EBI. There are several well-conceived reasons why this is the case.
As a consultant I have worked in over 200 schools, all of which have a slightly different take on the lesson observation process, what to look for and how to record it. The worst ones, in my opinion, are a series of complex tick boxes that distract you from really taking in what is happening in front of you. Some observers are so busy filling in forms they miss the subtle nuances that make great teaching. Teachers often attempt, therefore, to tick all the boxes resulting in cluttered lessons and unresponsive teaching.
Our blank piece of paper model assumes several things:
a) There is no preferred methodology in teaching and the observer is not looking for a specific lesson structure.
b) The observer goes in with an open mind. The observer goes in with no agenda other than to support and develop that teacher.
c) The agenda for the observation is provided by the teacher and the observer simply records some evidence of this focus to share with the teacher after the lesson, together with some questions to help the teacher reflect on the lesson. I always encourage my staff to prepare questions before the ‘debrief’.
I provide staff with this bookmark which has a series of questions on it to get them started and help structure the dialogue. It is just a guide.
The post lesson dialogue utilises the GROW model and therefore…
• Focuses on the teacher’s agenda
• Involves lots of listening
• Involves a structured dialogue: GROW with a positive outcome as a result of the coaching conversation.
I personally use the app Notability on my iPad which allows me to take notes, add photos, include links to resources and so on to provide the necessary evidence for the teacher. This also means that I can email the notes as a pdf to the teacher before I’ve even left their classroom so that they have time to read through my notes before we meet later.
The only piece of paper I require as a result of an observation is this ‘follow up professional dialogue’ sheet. This outlines what the next step is for that teacher to become even better. Again it uses GROW as a structure.
As Head of Staff Development I receive a copy of this GROW sheet from every teacher which enables me to have a good picture of what every one of the 69 teachers I have at my academy intends to achieve. I can then support (and challenge) them accordingly and also link them up with other staff.
I have recently worked in a variety of schools to establish processes that better reflect this developmental approach. Please let me know what you think and also if I may be able to help your school too.