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Developing a National Framework for the Effective Use of Lesson Observation in Further Education – Key Findings from UCU Project Report UCET May 2014 Dr.

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Presentation on theme: "Developing a National Framework for the Effective Use of Lesson Observation in Further Education – Key Findings from UCU Project Report UCET May 2014 Dr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Developing a National Framework for the Effective Use of Lesson Observation in Further Education – Key Findings from UCU Project Report UCET May 2014 Dr Matt O’Leary CRADLE University of Wolverhampton

2 Key questions 1.What do we know about current approaches to lesson observation? 2.How have we got to where we are now? 3.What do practitioners think about current approaches to observation? 4.How might the education sector make better use of lesson observation in the future? 5.What needs to change for this to happen? CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

3 CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education Backdrop to the project The use of lesson observation is a polemical topic Flashpoint in colleges – cause of on-going tension, grievances, disputes etc

4 What’s the purpose of lesson observation in FE? To improve the quality of teaching and learning To benchmark performance against the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) To inform and provide an evidence base for the institution’s self-assessment/self-evaluation systems To promote a culture of continuous improvement amongst staff To identify staff development needs (Adapted from O’Leary 2014: 78) CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

5 Overview of research design Mixed-methods study Sample: UCU Members (n = 4000) Participants: lecturers, middle & senior managers Phase 1 – online survey Phase 2 – Interviews & focus groups CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

6 What do we know about the current use(s) of lesson observation in FE? CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

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9 How have we got to this point? Neo-liberal reform of curriculum > ‘Market- inspired managerialism’ (Hogan 1995) & ‘managerialist positivism’ (Smith & O’Leary 2013) Age of Performativity (Ball 2012) Lesson observation as a CRUCIBLE for Quality Assurance/Improvement in T & L Reliance on lesson observation as one of the key data sources for Ofsted inspections CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

10 What do practitioners think of current approaches to lesson observation? CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

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14 Thematic categorySub-related theme/issue Counterproductive effects of observation  Punitive effect/use of observations (especially graded) are seen as a ‘stick’ with which to beat staff instead of a tool for CPD/not very helpful or developmental  Graded observations are regarded as ‘box-ticking’/’jumping through hoops’ exercises  High levels of stress and anxiety caused by current graded observation regimes  Unannounced observations causing increased stress  Too much emphasis on judging and measuring performance rather than concrete support on how to improve Teaching and Learning (T & L)  Lack of trust in professionalism of teaching staff  Time spent preparing for formal, graded observations is incommensurate with the perceived benefits/impact  Focus of observations driven by latest Ofsted priorities rather than genuine interest in excellence in T & L Observation as a form of assessment  Unfair to judge practitioners’ capabilities on snapshot observations; they should be more inclusive of other key indicators such as student achievement rates, student evaluations, peer review etc  Concerns regarding the validity and reliability of judgement through lesson observation  Inauthenticity of observations makes them unreliable instruments for judging practitioners’ capabilities and identifying underperforming staff Observer issues  Importance of subject specialist observers  Need for observers to demonstrate outstanding, current practice to have professional credibility  Observers need to be fully trained and update their skills continuously  Inconsistency (some good & bad) and subjectivity of observer judgements  Lack of prioritisation and timeliness of the feedback given by some observers Observation as a formative tool  Importance of observation as a ‘learning tool’ – especially the benefits of ungraded feedback by ‘critical friend’  Value of peer observations

15 Counterproductive effects (some examples) Punitive effect/use of observations (especially graded) are seen as a ‘stick’ with which to beat staff instead of a tool for CPD/not very helpful or developmental Graded observations are regarded as ‘box-ticking’ or ’jumping through hoops’ exercises High levels of stress and anxiety caused by current graded observation regimes Time spent preparing for formal, graded observations is incommensurate with the perceived benefits/impact CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

16 Increased stress and anxiety Lesson observations cause me massive stress. They make me ill & destroy my quality of life, upset my work life balance. I am now considered disabled under the Equality Act 2010 due to the stress inducing regime adopted at the college where I work that caused me to be absent long term. A fear culture has been created, I used to love my job now I hate it (895) (Based on UCU Project Report 2013) CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

17 Impact on self-esteem & self-efficacy CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

18 Labelling of teachers Evidence of implicit & explicit labelling of teachers’ performance CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

19 Cultures of fear High stakes assessment of graded observations leads to the creation of ‘cultures of fear’ CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

20 Observation as a form of assessment (some examples) Unfair to judge practitioners’ capabilities on snapshot observations; they should be more inclusive of other key indicators such as student achievement rates, student evaluations, peer review etc Inauthenticity of observations makes them unreliable instruments for judging practitioners’ capabilities and identifying underperforming staff CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

21 The myth of measurement CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

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23 How might the education sector make better use of observation? Emphasise the FORMATIVE use of observation as a tool for teacher learning over the summative Prioritise the ‘pre-observation’ meeting, feedback AND feed forward stages of the observation process & embed time in staff workload

24 How might the education sector make better use of observation? Allow for greater experimentation with ‘alternative’ models of observation. For example: 1.The Differentiated Model 2.The ‘Catchphrase’ Model 3.The Lesson Study Model

25 How might the education sector make better use of observation? Accept the strengths & limitations of observation as a method Exploit its potential as a tool for educational inquiry Combine observation with other forms of data collection/evidence

26 What needs to change for this to happen? Need for root and branch reform of normalised models of observation. Efforts to ‘tinker’ with the system likely to have minimal impact

27 What needs to change for this to happen? Educators, policy makers & inspectors need to break free from the assessment straitjacket that conceptually constrains the use of observation CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

28 What needs to change for this to happen? Acknowledge that improving the use of observation is not just about PEDAGOGY but also about issues of POWER and TRUST

29 What needs to change for this to happen? Contexts & cultures of teacher learning & growth are essential to the creation & implementation of alternative models of observation

30 Recommendations 1.Explore alternative models of observation 2.Prioritise the professional development needs of staff 3.Formal allocation of timetabled hours for observation: pre-observation, feedback & feed-forward meetings 4.Need for a multi-dimensional model of teacher assessment 5.Stop relying on the Ofsted 4-point scale to assess & measure observations CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

31 Recommendations 6.Review observation assessment criteria & embed the professional standards for FE 7.Introduce statutory training AND qualifications for observers 8.Involve teacher educators in the creation of observation schemes 9.Sever links between formal observations and capability procedures 10. Support for underperforming tutors CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

32 References Ball, S. J. (2012) Global Education Inc. New policy networks and the neoliberal imaginary. London: Routledge. Hogan, P. (1995) The Custody and Courtship of Experience: Western Education in Philosophical Perspective. Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columbia Press. O’Leary, M. (2014) Classroom Observation: A Guide to the Effective Observation of Teaching and Learning. London: Routledge. Smith, R. & O’Leary, M. (2013) NPM in an Age of Austerity: Knowledge and Experience in Further Education, Journal of Educational Administration and History, Vol. 45(3), pp UCU (2013) Developing a National Framework for the Effective Use of Lesson Observation in Further Education, Project Report for University and College Union, Nov 2013 CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education

33 CRADLE Centre for Research & Development in Lifelong Education Want to know more? 20% discount on the paperback version of the book. Enter KRK57 at the checkout online at: Kindle version via Amazon:


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