Evaluating Teaching Not Teachers

Evaluating Teaching Cycle Diagram I am really excited about this model which has been well received by the teaching staff at our school.

Principles of the Model

The principles behind our evaluating teaching cycle are straightforward - We are evaluating the quality of teaching NOT teachers. There is a subtle but important difference. - It is a flawed methodology to arbitrarily judge the quality of teachers through lesson observations. - The best schools promote a collaborative and shared commitment to improving outcomes for students. - There is no prescriptive approach to quality teaching – what’s good is what works. - Data is merely the starting point – it gives no answers, just generates hypotheses. - The most important aspect of any evaluation cycle is the input – the quality and personalisation of research, actions, and strategies which recognise that different approaches work differently for different teachers, departments and students.

The Cycle

These principles led to @beautifullyfra1 and I designing the following cycle as our methodology for both evaluating and improving the quality of teaching:

Data Collection

This is just the start (or once the cycle is implemented – the checking process!). This is not the post to discuss the process we go through to collect data, but needless to say it has been through a process to ensure that it is meaningful and robust. For us, this is just summative data and we do not pretend for it to be anything other than this. If you look at my previous post - I have written about how we are using PLCs and grain-sized data as the most important form of assessment to inform teaching for students.

Key Questions

This data forms the basis for Directors of Learning and SLT line managers to draw hypotheses from: - What are the trends for key groups across the subjects? - How are the students performing in relation to their prior attainment? - Is there a difference between performance at key stages? - Is there in-subject variation? - Where is there good practice?

Cause and Effect

Our Directors of Learning are constantly evaluating the quality of their department’s work, but following the generation of the hypotheses from the data collection, we have a consistent review week across the school to allow for quality assurance, and joint work between middle and senior leaders, to ‘test’ these hypotheses. If the data is suggesting, for example, that in Year 8 maths the high prior attainment disadvantaged students are underperforming in comparison to the advantaged students, we will make this a focus for further investigation on top of our everyday evaluation. We will visit lessons, look at schemes of learning, look at books, talk to the students, look at parental engagement, compare attainment of these students in maths with other subjects and so on. Once we have interrogated the data and our initial hypotheses, we discuss as a department team, and as a team of middle leaders, what our priorities are as a whole school, as well as highlighting any in-school variation.

The Difference

Once these have been identified, we move to the most important part of our cycle – how we use what we know to ‘productively tinker’ with our practice. We tackle this from both a teacher and student perspective. Some of the strategies we have found effective for us can be seen here:

The work now really begins and students, teachers, middle leaders and senior leaders work together to implement the actions with an emphasis on shared ownership and collaboration. Our data scrutiny meetings have completely changed emphasis. Rather than focusing on the numbers, they are instead driven by a discussion and commitment to the changes that will take place in the classroom in schemes of learning, teaching approaches, assessment approaches and department work.

The next data collection is then an opportunity to ‘temperature check’ the impact of the work we have been undertaking. And so the cycle begins again – in all likelihood, we will need to continue with what we are already doing as sustainable improvements don’t happen overnight, but ‘checking in’ allows us to track progress against priorities and alert us to anything else which may need investigating.

But what about?

The concept of the cycle was welcomed unanimously by Directors of Learning, and their input into how the cycle would work in practice led to some effective changes to our initial thoughts. Unsurprisingly for them, the collaborative approach was the most important aspect. It is worth noting though that this is not a ‘soft’ option – this model does not excuse underperformance. This model is not one which precludes tackling and addressing individual underperformance. Nor is it only during ‘review’ weeks that teaching is evaluated. We all know that you don’t need an observation or a data collection to tell you that a teacher is not performing. If at any points, there are concerns, these are raised and addressed in the appropriate way. And whilst I would hope nothing I do is driven by Ofsted, I am not naïve to these pressures. I have every confidence that when we are next inspected, our approach to evaluating teaching – with not a single grading of a teacher in sight – will be welcomed. In fact, I won’t allow it to be up for discussion.

Next steps

Alongside trialling and refining this cycle, I am currently working on a teacher PLC which we will use to forensically identify where we have areas of strength in terms of pedagogy, and where we need to do further work at both a teacher, department and whole school level. We are excited about the potential of this and again, this has been welcomed by staff. I know he intends to blog about it in the near future and I would definitely recommend looking out for it if you are a senior or middle leader.

We would love to hear your thoughts / feedback on what we are doing. Please do leave us a comment.