TO GRADE OR NOT TO GRADE? A PERSONAL REFLECTION…

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October 27, 2014 by dragonflytraining

Written by Stacey Hyland-McCabe – 

I’ve been following, this week, the furor on Twitter about OfSTED apparently changing tack on whether or not individual lessons will be graded. Mike Cladingbowl seems to have been extremely clear – they will not and if any OfSTED inspector does give individual lesson grading they will indeed be taken to task. (I say ‘seems to have been’ because by his own admission there is still confusion and conflicting guidance amongst OfSTED Inspectors themselves).

I’m interested in this debate for several reasons, some of them personal and some professional and, for the purposes of this blog I want to make clear that in both schools I refer to below the practice of looking at Quality of Teaching Over Time is used (data, student voice, work scrutiny and lesson observations), so, when I refer to judgements and gradings below I am only talking about the ‘progress in one lesson on one day’ aspect of Quality of Teaching.

I’ve observed hundreds of lessons as a consultant; a peer coach; or a member of SLT and have experienced firsthand the devastation a low judgment can create and the elation a high ‘Quality of Teaching’ judgement brings. I myself was observed last year by two people and was given a ‘4’ by one of them and a ‘2’ by the other! It was the same lesson and they observed it at the same time! How can that be?! The answer is; I still don’t know, which is worrying and was, at the time, pretty soul-destroying. So, from this point of view I am extremely relieved and pleased at the current state of events. Moreover, as someone who works with lots of teachers to improve the overall quality of their teaching I know that once the judgment has been given then the brain can switch off (or turn to tears / ‘whoops of joy’), therefore, this can only be a good thing.

However, equally from the point of view of someone who needs to be able to direct inspectors towards teachers with a certain calibre of teaching I know the usefulness and security that data can bring.

In one role in my previous life I was in-charge of Teaching and Learning and we were data mad! At the time the Head & Deputy insisted upon data and meta-data on every aspect of the school; behaviour data, attendance data, data on the Quality of Teaching (from the criteria of AfL, Differentiation etc… to the meta-data of ‘Does the teacher act upon the feedback’ {which was a ‘meta-question’ in our drive to improve the quality of AfL}. This was superb in terms of really being able to focus & personalise CPD and interventions for all staff and for accountability (a double-edged sword in any arena). The flip-side was that staff felt like a ‘number’, they felt judged (they were!) and they worried all day every day leading up to any observation or learning walk that their job was on the line. A very sad state of affairs and one which, sadly, I was part of. (However, I would like to add at this point that I hated this format so much that I quit the school without, at the time, another job to go to).

The school I am currently with gained a new Head Teacher this term (one whom had never been a Head Teacher before) and the results of his decision (before the OfSTED discussions took off) to never grade any lesson and to give formative feedback only and ensure that learning walks resulted only in positive feedback has been unbelievable. I work at this school as a consultant seconded to SLT to support Teaching and Learning and I believe that the Head’s tack on this coupled with my supportive team-teaching style has caused a tangible revolution in the classroom. Teachers have open-doors, student voice is incredibly positive, the staffroom is full of resources on a variety of Teaching and Learning related topics, we’ve used #poundlandpedagogy to spice things up further and several teacher have joined the Twitterati with a passion. I am still perfectly able to ‘judge’ the quality of teaching and direct inspectors are whomever to various teachers of varying standards and everyone is happy – in even sense of the word.

So, all-in-all I believe it’s good news for all that OfSTED won’t be judging individual lessons and I urge Heads & SLT to follow our lead and get rid of number-based observations.

If you would like to read more from Stacey Hyland-McCabe you can visit her website here.

Also, Stacey will be running her great course, The Big Four: Sustainably Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning this term. To find out more, please click the following link: http://www.dragonfly-training.co.uk/view/course/281

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