Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Studied Lesson in Recovery

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

A Studied Lesson in Recovery

Article excerpt

The use of lesson study as a model of classroom observation can help to rebuild staff confidence, trust and autonomy during challenging times, says Julie Smith

In just 14 months, our school went from being judged "good", to special measures, and back again.

Personally, this led to a loss of confidence in the inspection system. It also damaged the reputation of the school. Collectively, it dented morale, although we never lost pride or belief in what we were doing. So, as a staff, how did we not derail entirely? How did we not just survive this turbulent era in the school's history, but actually find ourselves thriving?

One line manager tentatively suggested, "Perhaps trust is the key". There are now a multitude of ways that a culture of trust is being re-established in the school: the introduction of a democratic and distributed leadership model; a wider range of staff leading their own initiatives; staff ownership of their continuing professional development; and greater links with other schools and professional bodies, to name but a few. We were also lucky enough to be given supportive guidance from a fantastic inspector, who helped us define a clear sense of direction and ensured we never became complacent.

One thing that really epitomises our return to a culture of trust and autonomy is the introduction of lesson study as a model of classroom observation.

Effective verbal feedback

We have recently completed our first pilot of this approach, in which triads of teachers collaboratively planned, taught, observed and analysed learning and teaching in research lessons. It gave back control to our teachers and empowered them; that has been key to us moving on from our Ofsted experience.

What did we discover in these lessons? Findings have been interesting. One triad, looking at student resilience, avoided the current trend of advocating growth mindset in schools through motivational posters and assemblies, as it was felt that this might mislead students. While an absence of effort virtually guarantees failure, more effort is not necessarily a guarantee of success.

Instead, the intervention was based on Martin and Marsh's research into academic buoyancy and the triad focused their attention on the impact of teacher feedback. Findings showed that, for these students, feedback was particularly effective when delivered verbally, although further questions were raised about the best ways to increase student self-efficacy.

A further triad examined the effect of setting personal targets for students, finding again that specific verbal feedback directly related to assessment objectives seems to be more impactful than merely offering reassurance. …

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