Evidence based & reflective observations

As I have written in previous posts (here and here) we haven’t judged lesson at Bridgwater College Academy for 5 years. When we do observe a lesson there is always a focus for the observation and this is generally the individual teacher’s negotiated ‘Personal Development Plan’ focus, which I have written previously about here.

Lesson notes are recorded on a blank piece of paper; no tick boxes, no grade boxes, no WWW and EBI. Our blank piece of paper model assumes several things:

  1. There is no preferred methodology in teaching and the observer is not looking for a specific lesson structure.
  2. The observer goes in with an open mind. The observer goes in with no agenda other than to support and develop that teacher.
  3. 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’. Many of these reflective questions are recorded on the observation notes.

At Bridgwater College Academy we use the IOS app ‘Notability’ on our iPads which allows us to take notes, add and annotate photos, and include links to resources.

wpid-notability_startupRead more about Notability here: http://www.gingerlabs.com/

At the last look it costs £9.99 and is available here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/notability/id360593530?mt=8


There are, of course, other note taking apps but I love this one personally

What these notes do is provide the necessary evidence for the teacher on which to reflect on their teaching. 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. They end up being anywhere between 2 – 4mb so may quickly fill up your school email allowance depending on how much you have.

Here is an example of the notes I take. These are recorded ‘live’ in the lesson.


Lesson evidence, through photos and lesson data including timings, together with reflective questions means that these notes are focused and non-judgemental. They focus on strategies, not people; on teaching and not teachers. They help establish reality; what really happened during the lesson. In many cases what we think is happening is different from what is actually happening in our lessons. Objective data helps enormously here. It is a description rather than an evaluation. I find that when staff are aware of what happened they are so much more accepting of feedback or advice and are generally in a stronger position to make next step commitments themselves. These notes contribute to our culture of ongoing self-evaluation in which teachers are empowered to take responsibility for their professional development. The focus is on reflection and coaching, that is learning from our actions and acting upon our new learning.

Taking photos in lessons also provides us with evidence of effective practice to share with other colleagues at meetings.

The post lesson dialogue utilises the GROW model and focuses on the teacher’s agenda. The post lesson conversation involves a structured dialogue: GROW with a positive outcome as a result of the coaching conversation. When done well it involves listening, reflecting back, asking great questions, making suggestions and helping teachers to solve their own issues.


This ‘follow up professional dialogue’ outlines what the next step is for that teacher to become even better and locks in their commitment to action. Again it uses GROW as a structure and is captured on this proforma:
















Tell me what you think. Works for us.

11 thoughts on “Evidence based & reflective observations

  1. Interesting approach and nails the teaching and learning not the political agenda. I am sure the staff love this approach. The dialogue is what supports reflection and developement. Grading does not! Teacher AfL at work. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks for feedback. This developmental approach has been the way we do things for a number of years now.

      • How would you rate the impact compared to grading lessons? What are your main positives? Have you needed to tweak the process. Very interested because our current system in Wales is not the most effective in my opinion.

      • Impact has been great. Grading never improved anyone here. The main positives is reduction of stress and fear about lesson observation and the fact that people get better as a result. Always tweaking our approach.
        Thanks for your interest.

      • Thank you. I have always learned more through discussions about lessons rather than being focussed on the grade anyway but some staff are indeed fearful of obs and that is not good. Your piece has confirmed my gut feeling about it. Very grateful.

  2. Loving the use of photos during the actual obs. It gives a added dimension. On my shopping list.

  3. Pingback: Lesson observations for ‘Genuine improvement’ | @mrocallaghan_edu

  4. Pingback: Education Panorama (May ’15) by @TeacherToolkit | @TeacherToolkit

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