Is there a meaningful correlation between lesson obs grading and pupil progress?

Last evening on Twitter, the question was posed among tweachers, as to whether or not there was a direct link between Lesson Observation gradings and class performance progress. I joined in the debate, stating that there is a direct link in my school and that I have the statistical evidence to support my judgement.

One of my esteemed colleagues pointed out that there is a distinct lack of empirical evidence in this highly contentious area; after all – what is the purpose of lesson observations, often highly stressful for teachers, if not to support and enhance learning? As Dr Mark Evans @teachitso has so eloquently pointed out, there is a need for evidence-based learning in our profession, as we search and scrabble around ourselves for solutions. Should we be VAK-ing? Brain-gyming? And is there a real purpose to lesson observations? The end here needs to justify the means, surely.

During half term, I’ve conducted a careful analysis of pupil progress data and the results DIRECTLY reflect lesson observation analysis – and here my judgements have been backed up by an external consultant, so I am assured they are accurate and not swayed by my personal understanding of our pupil progress data. And this being my first year at this school, I am free from preconceptions. At this point, I could chart the data – copy and paste – (and would share if asked, if evidence were required for research), but suffice it here for me to maintain some anonymity, to spare my teachers’ blushes……

My most effective teacher has added an average of 5.5 APS over the year to their pupil’s progress – a stunning result; needless to say, their’s are the highest lesson judgements – always good/outstanding – and I do mean always – learning walks, drop-ins etc. This is a class full of SEN/FSM children with many ongoing TACs. In Maths alone, 35% of the pupils entered the class “on-track” performance-wise; now 90% attaining as they should (in line with National expectations).

Teachers that have been judged “good” throughout the year have added value to their children’s progress – a little over the average expected progress, thereby closing gaps and ensuring their percentage class APS score is now in line with national expectations, having begun the academic year below them.

My satisfactory teachers have added the expected amount of progress – not more, not less.

So we share – we operate a collegiate approach – peer observations, practice-sharing, pupil progress meetings – my effective teachers, Maths specialist teacher and myself make ourselves available to take colleagues’ classes whilst they observe – always with time for detailed analysis post-lesson. The list of ways to share outstanding practice are endless….but I would maintain that any Head should undertake such analysis in their school – after all, if good progress is evident, if outstanding practice is evident, it NEEDS to be shared and tapped into, to ensure even progress throughout the school and fairness for our children.

Next blog….what constitutes effective teaching/learning? How do we rate our teachers and when can we give an outstanding rating?


11 thoughts on “Is there a meaningful correlation between lesson obs grading and pupil progress?

  1. This is a really interesting and informative article. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Hi Tracey,

    May I first congratulate you on your first blog post! Well done!

    The question in your title made me think ‘Yes’ immediately. I have had the pleasure (and I use that term deliberately) of observing teachers in quite a few schools now. I have come to a conclusion that pupils progress although measured in points throughout the year, can also be judged like you say through learning walks, speaking to the pupils, looking at the learning environment etc. However, one thing I have found is that when you enter the classroom of the teachers that have the highest average points progress consistently, you will see a learning environment that is a rich oasis of support for learning mixed with a healthy celebration of learning too.

    We at Heathfield are very much in the process of sharing outstanding practice from within school but also heading out locally and further to find examples to bring back and share. As we become LA less, school must work more like this to get the best value for money. As a result of this, teachers will need to become keen, lean sharing machines! Is our profession ready for this?

    I think so!

    David Mitchell

  3. Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences. Thought provoking and helpful.

  4. Andrew Hall says:

    In my view lesson observations should correlate with student outcomes; if they don’t observers are looking at the wrong things. The challenge I think is supporting colleagues whose classroom strategies aren’t developing the children sufficiently well. By sharing successful practice, key improvements can be developed. An important part of observing lessons is seeing how the teacher uses her knowledge of the chldren’s pre-learning to move them forward, helping them over hurdles, or allowing them space to ‘run’ with their thinking. Teacher’s who fail to account for previous progress tend not to be systematic enough to target new areas appropriately.

    Allowing a staff team to grow and mature together takes time and a willingness to become better practitioners.

  5. I agree that learners need to make progress both over time and in the observed lesson, and outstanding progress for an outstanding. However, if expected progress is made in satisfactory lessons, doesn’t that call into question the downgrading of satisfactory? Equally, I think there needs to be discretion, after all one child off task, not making the progress all the others are (in the one observed lesson), shouldn’t mean that lesson isn’t outstanding.

  6. Heather Leatt says:

    Interesting findings. I completely agree that lesson observations should relate to learning, and have nevere seen any research to show a relation between good/outstanding teaching and accelerated pupil progress. Most interesting is that even satisfactory teaching in your school delivers expected progress. The logic of these results is that unsatisfactory teaching would not – the reason why we need to observe and support such teachers to improve rapidly. It would be both interesting and worthwhile to carry out a larger scale research project to see if it reflects the findings in your school. Thanks for sharing your data.

  7. Liz Garton says:

    It seems obvious that there should be a link between outstanding teaching and pupil progress. Lesson observation provide a structure for self development, it is great that your teachers have the opportunity to observe each other. However many teachers find these situations “false”, some respond by acting up, putting on a show and others feel slightly threatened by the clipboard. It would be interesting to know how you would support this second group?

    • headtracey says:

      Thank you for your comments and thoughts Liz. Our peer observations are more of an opportunity to share practice than to pass judgement – so the observing teacher will join in, rather than make a formal judgement. Some work with children, as a TA would do – others find themselves team-teaching; either way, there is always time for discussion afterwards. Feedback from all has been positive so far and they tell me they enjoy the process and find it useful.

  8. Steve says:

    Interesting findings which reflect common sense and experience.

  9. Ian Lynch says:

    Really OFSTED should be putting more effort into recording this type of thing and making it widely available so that others can see the characteristics of successful teaching and learn from it.

  10. @croix2000 says:

    Nice article. Without doubt there is a correlation. However, I often find that good teachers deliver outstanding wrap around support too e.g after school and lunchtime sessions – these massively help improve progress – leading to excellent APS VA. Hence why we now include this in our PM reviews to reward the wider attributes that make teachers outstanding.

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