Observing lessons: Ofsted vs. Lesson Study

Context:

This study, which I completed for an MEd in 2015, explores the impact of two models of classroom observation on teaching and learning: the Ofsted approach, and Lesson Study – an evidence-based / practice-based approach to improving teaching through lesson observation.

Introduction:

I began by carrying out a review of the literature with regard to the two approaches. For anyone who would like to read about this in more detail, the full dissertation can be found hereFollowing this I set out to investigate the effectiveness of the Ofsted approach in comparison with the lesson study approach from three perspectives: a) teachers b) line managers and c) students.

Research method(s):

The research strategy consisted of a web-based questionnaire, developed to ascertain the views of the three positional perspectives. The next stage of the research strategy was composed of lesson study, consisting of a cycle of ‘research lessons’ that were jointly planned, taught, observed and analysed by a lesson study group. Three students, who typified different groups of learner in the class, were identified as the focus area of the research lesson. Observers took notes to capture the case study students’ responses at different points in the lesson, recorded by video. Students were briefly interviewed to gain their perspectives. The lesson study group met to assess progress made, then formally shared the outcomes of the lesson study.

Research question(s):

  • What is the history and purpose of the Ofsted model of educational evaluation?
  • What is the history and purpose of evidence based and practice based approaches to improving teaching, such as lesson study?
  • What are the positional perspectives of these differing approaches?
  • Does an evidence based and practice based approach to observing lessons have any impact on teaching and learning?

Findings:

Findings are that Lesson Study – a systematic approach to improving teaching and learning through an evidence-based/practice-based approach to lesson observation – is characterised by notions of equality, faithful observation, openness to feedback, reciprocal vulnerability and the use of evidence from multiple sources. In this sense, Lesson Study can be seen as the antithesis of the Ofsted quality-assurance approach to lesson observation, which teachers frequently report has little if any impact in terms of improving their professional practice.

Conclusions:

The process of lesson study seems closer to exploring ways to improve student learning and to meet the needs of specific groups of learners more genuinely, rather than proving proxies for learning based solely on Ofsted criteria. Additionally, a further benefit to using this model of observation is that students have joint ownership of the learning process.

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