What Makes a Lesson Outstanding?


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What Makes a Lesson Outstanding?

  1. 1. What makes an outstanding lesson?A small child brags to her friend, "I taught my dog to whistle.""Wow!" says the other, "Lets hear!" "Oh, he cant whistle," repliesthe first. "Why not? I thought you said you taught him!" "I did! He justdidnt learn it."Most teachers instinctively know when a lesson has gone particularly well (or forthat matter badly). The response of pupils, the sense of achievement they feel,the amount of work they get through or maybe the shared sense of enjoymentare all indicators of a successful lesson. Enjoyment usually indicates that thingshave gone well – but not always.As an Ofsted inspector, I have often walked into lessons and seen pupils workinghard, enjoying themselves, behaving well and seemingly being part of asuccessful lesson; however, appearances can sometimes be deceptive. In anutshell, lessons are judged by the amount of learning that goes on, or putanother way, how much progress the pupils make in terms of what they know,understand and can do at the end of the lesson that they couldn’t do at thebeginning? This all seems pretty straightforward: you plan a lesson, you deliver itand pupils learn something.I once visited a Design and Technology lesson where Year 7 pupils were makingkey fobs. They were having a great time, working hard and clearly enjoying thelesson. I said to the teacher at the end of the lesson, “what did the pupils learntoday?” “Well,” he said. “They learnt how to cut a piece of acrylic, file the edgessmooth and drill a hole for the key ring”. “Thank you.” I replied.Two days later I observed the same teacher with a year 9 class. As before, thepupils were working hard, behaving extremely well and clearly enjoying thelesson. They were making clocks – clocks out of acrylic. At the end of the lessonI said to the teacher “what did the pupils learn today?” “Well,” he said. “Theylearnt how to cut a piece of acrylic, file the edges smooth and drill a hole for theclock mechanism”. “Really?” I said, “But they learnt that in year 7 when they weremaking their key fobs!”. “Oh yes,” he conceded “but we’re now using a muchbigger piece of acrylic”. The latter of course is likely to be an inadequate lessonbecause however much pupils enjoy the lesson, however hard they work, andhowever well behaved they are, if they don’t learn enough, the lesson cannotreally considered to be satisfactory.I think that it is sometimes easier to think about a lesson from a parent’sperspective rather than a teacher’s. As a father of three, I know precisely myminimum expectation for every lesson my children experience; a teacher whoknows their subject really well, mutual respect, the opportunity for them (mychildren) to learn, free from any misbehaviour and above all I want them to learnsomething new (or at least practise and develop their existing partial
  2. 2. understanding or skill) every lesson – if this doesn’t happen the lesson has notreached satisfactory.In order to deliver an outstanding lesson you need to think about the following:Is the lesson learner focused or teacher focused? Start with the learningobjectives. You need to make sure these are not a ‘to do’ list, or a set of woollyaims. They must be firmly rooted in a set of challenging expectations that willlead to measurable gains in learning. Share these with pupils and make surethey understand what is expected of them. Sometimes the learning objectiveslack any challenge and a bright pupil could achieve them in 5 minutes. Think verycarefully about what you expect all pupils to achieve as a minimum and thenwhat the SEN pupils need, the least able, the middle achievers, the higherachievers and finally the gifted and talented. Remember, for a lesson to beoutstanding, all pupils must make at least good gains in their knowledge,understanding or skills. Make sure that the objectives are clear and challengingand that you constantly strive to ensure that all pupils meet these objectives.Refer back to them, briefly but appropriately, at the end of the lesson. Do notmake the plenary just a repeat of the introduction.Is there Excellent planning for the lesson with very good resources? Thiswill ensure a brisk pace, clear challenge and opportunities to extend or reinforcethe learning for those that need it. Immaculate planning and preparation,particularly in terms of providing activities that get progressively more demandingare essential. Planning must also build in opportunities to support self and peerassessment.Assessment is crucial. For any lesson to be regarded as good, Ofsted lessonobservation criteria states that ‘based upon thorough and accurateassessment that informs learners how to improve, work is closely tailoredto the full range of learners’ needs, so that all can succeed. Learners areguided to assess their work themselves.’ What this means is thatassessment must be an integral part of every lesson. Ofsted inspectors will askpupils how well they are doing, what level/grade they are working at and whatthey need to do to improve. It is a very clear indication that a pupil has been welltaught when they can tell you their existing level, their target and precisely whatthey need to do. In a lesson that has been graded as outstanding you may wellsee the following: ‘The teacher makes outstanding use of self and peerassessment throughout the lesson. Pupils are constantly being asked to assesshow well they, or their partners, are doing and to identify for themselves exactlywhat they need to do to improve. Pupils are being encouraged to takeresponsibility for their own development of skills’.Pace is an interesting concept. I liken it to oxygen, as the song so eloquentlyputs it – too much and it gets you high, not enough and you’re going to die. Don’tsacrifice thorough embedded learning just because you have planned too much
  3. 3. for the lesson. Give pupils time to answer – make sure they are given time tothink and to reinforce their learning. On the other hand, never let activities go onfor too long. Be watchful! Spot signs in pupils’ body language that they areslowing down, getting bored etc – re-inject pace into the lesson where necessary.I would suggest that practical activities should not go on for more than twentyminutes unchecked – remember that learning or rather the speed of learningshould not be sacrificed. The pace of the lesson should be just right. No timeshould be wasted and pupils should move quickly from one learning activity toanother. However there should never be a sense of rushing and everybody mustbe given enough time to think.Very good questioning is essential. Knowing when to use open-endedquestions that challenge and extend the learning is a vital skill – look foropportunities that arise from pupils responses to extend or reinforce the learning.(don’t go off the point though). I read somewhere that the average waiting timeby teachers for a response to a question is less than three seconds – is thisreally enough time for a person to gather their thoughts, recall the requiredinformation and then form a logical answer?A range of activities and teaching styles will help to support good learningfor all pupils. Never be one-dimensional. Vary your style and delivery and thinkabout the full range of learners and their preferred learning styles – we all like abit of variety – pupils demand it. Plan activities that ensure the visual, auditoryand kinaesthhetic learning styles are addressed. Remember – it is important toensure that your learners are not just passive recipients. They should be involvedat every stage. They should be doers, contributors, evaluators and teachers.Be enthusiastic and make it demonstrably clear that you are enjoying thelearning just as much as they are.The criteria used by Ofsted are given below. Read these by all means but as Isaid at the beginning of the article, you’ll know when you deliver an outstandinglesson.According to Ofsted Criteria:To be an outstanding lesson teaching is at least good in all or nearly allrespects and is exemplary in significant elements. As a result, learnersthrive and make exceptionally good progress.For a good lesson pupils must make good progress and most of the followingshould be also be apparent:Learners make good progress and show good attitudes to their work, as a resultof effective teaching. The teachers’ good subject knowledge lends confidence totheir teaching styles, which engage learners and encourage them to work well
  4. 4. independently. Any unsatisfactory behaviour is managed effectively. The level ofchallenge stretches without inhibiting.Based upon thorough and accurate assessment that informs learners how toimprove, work is closely tailored to the full range of learners’ needs, so that allcan succeed. Learners are guided to assess their work themselves.Teaching assistants and other classroom helpers are well directed to supportlearning. Those with additional learning needs have work well matched to theirneeds based upon a good diagnosis of them. Good relationships supportparents/carers in helping learners to succeed.By Geoff Hancock, Lead Inspector
  5. 5. Examples of outstanding practice identified in the two PE lessonsPost 16 lessonExcellent planning for the lesson with very good resources, including carefullychosen projector slides, templates for students to complete etc. prepared inadvance.Teacher gives very clear explanations throughout, ensuring that studentsunderstand the required material.Very good questioning; wide ranging across the group and and alwaysensuring that students have time to think.Outstanding use of activities that enable students to learn in a variety of ways– visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning.In particular, the kinaesthetic demonstration of the conduction systeminvolved all pupils and used a narrator to enable auditory learning. It was builtup slowly and carefully so that students are very unlikely to forget thedemonstration or the conduction system that it represents.Excellent reinforcement of what students needed to remember in severaldifferent formats. Also very good opportunities for students to apply their newknowledge and understanding in ‘what if…?’ situations.Particularly skilled use of peer assessment, in the context of paireddiscussion, to confirm and extend learning.Teacher’s enjoyment of the lesson is infectious – a huge bonus for students.
  6. 6. Key Stage 4 lessonThe lesson is immaculately planned and prepared, particularly in terms ofproviding activities that get progressively more demanding and also inproviding very good resources to support self and peer assessment.The teacher uses learning objectives very well. The objectives are clear andchallenging and teacher is constantly striving to ensure that all pupils meetthese objectives. He refers back to them, briefly but appropriately, at the endof the lesson.The teacher questions very well, particularly in terms of ensuring thateveryone has time to think before the question is answered.The teacher makes outstanding use of self and peer assessment throughoutthe lesson. Pupils are constantly being asked to assess how well they, or theirpartners, are doing and to identify for themselves exactly what they need todo to improve. Pupils are being encouraged to take responsibility for their owndevelopment of skills.The pace of the lesson is just right. No time is wasted and pupils move quicklyfrom one learning activity to another. However there is no sense of rushingand everybody has enough time to think.The teacher very skilfully inter-weaves underlying facts, principles and theoryinto what is basically a practical lesson. Sometimes the reinforcement ofpupils’ existing knowledge (e.g. the naming of the muscles as they arestretched, the references to the rules of basketball etc.) is almostimperceptible, but nevertheless valuable. These references to theory are soquick and efficient that they take very little time and so leave maximum timefor physical activity and skill development.
  7. 7. EVIDENCE FORMInspector’s OIN CH Inspection number Observation time Observation type L A D O Year group(s) 12? Grouping MC SU SA SL O BO GI MI Present / NOR ~10 Support teachers / T S T S T SSubject codes PE SEN EAL Oth Inspector’s EF No assistants CH01Focus (i.e. main purpose of the inspection activity) ContextLooking for examples of outstanding practice in post 16 PE Lesson on the conduction system in the heartEvaluation Beginning of lesson: clear learning objectives, displayed all through the lesson to encourage referring backto them. Teacher also makes it very clear in what he says, precisely what students should understand by the end.Re-cap on previous work on the heart – good use of projector to re-cap. However, students not particularly involved atthis stage. There was, for example, no testing of their recall of the meaning of ‘systolic’ and ‘diastolic’.Paired work: describing the cardiac cycle to a partner. Students told to ‘think then describe’ – good encouragement toplan what they are going to say. At least one group find it difficult to get started on this activity i.e. they find itchallenging; teacher allows enough time for them to work it out. Then good use of peer assessment – ‘how could thedescription be improved?’ followed by a second, improved (esp. re: valves) version from the other member of the pair.Peer assessment leads to both reinforcement of and improved detail in students’ knowledge i.e. very good learning.Some groups are of 3 rather than 2 and it is not clear whether the activity worked as well with three. Teachercirculates throughout to check the descriptions that students are giving.Useful discussion in 2nd feedback to whole class. It might have been better for the teacher to give the correct versionjust to round off this aspect of the learning.Teacher questions very clearly and, importantly, gives students time to think. At this stage, students do not recall theterm ‘conduction system’ from the beginning of the lesson. Concentration was not quite as good at the very beginningas it has been since. Teacher efficiently picks up and addresses any misunderstandings e.g. re: order of events.Good use of projector – slide has good, concise labels and students are being thoroughly involved via questioning.Teacher provides good, clear explanations. He then reinforces with a different diagram and uses this twice.Demonstration: outstanding example of kinaesthetic learning. Demo. conducted in excellent atmosphere – humour,supportive relationships etc. An incorrect answer is no problem for the student because of the atmosphere,relationships etc. Teacher enjoying himself and sharing that enjoyment with students. However this is not simplyentertainment; these students are unlikely to forget this memorable demonstration, built up gradually and carefully.Good questioning interspersed, again with time to think. The inclusion of the narrator provides auditory reinforcementof what students need to remember.Further reinforcement - completing a template – fierce concentration evident as they have to write out what they nowknow and understand. This is very good use of informal assessment.Teacher now refers back to objectives – ‘tough, but you’ve done it’. Very encouraging.Teacher then explains very clearly the terms and average values that students need to know – and they make theirown notes as he explains – one of many changes of learning activity in this lesson.Using what students have learnt: students then required to answer several ‘what if?’ questions. Not all fullyunderstand how to use the equation to deduce what happens – challenging for these students and possibly neededmore time. Very valuable testing and extending of students’ understanding.Plenary: 5 multi-choice questions, relating back to objectives, easy at first and then leading on to open-ended q’s.Homework: research exercise on factors affecting heart rate - useful though not unduly challenging.Summary of main pointsA thoroughly enjoyable lesson with a very strong emphasis on genuine learning for all. The lesson was immaculatelyplanned and prepared with very good materials and an imaginative demonstration. Many obvious strengths in thislesson, all listed above. The use of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning activities was outstanding. Only veryminor weaknesses, none that significantly affected learning. Students gained a secure understanding of the conductionsystem in the heart and were able to apply what they had learnt – very good learning for these studentsJudgement on the overall quality of the lesson (Leave blank when not a lesson) 1 = Outstanding, 4 = Inadequate 1Use for grades if there is sufficient evidence: Personal Care, guidance & Leadership & Standards Progress Teaching Curriculum development support management 1 1 1 1Particular evaluations related to safety, health, enjoyment, contribution to the community, economic well-beingGenuine enjoyment and very significant achievement for these students in this lesson. (ECM 3)Document reference number: HMI 2506
  8. 8. EVIDENCE FORMInspector’s OIN CH Inspection number Observation time Observation type L A D O Year group(s) 10? Grouping MC SU SA SL O BO GI MI Present / NOR ~20 Support teachers / T S T S T SSubject codes PE SEN EAL Oth Inspector’s EF No CH02 assistantsFocus (i.e. main purpose of the inspection activity) ContextTeaching and learning in PE and identifying examples of Lesson involves improving pupils’ skills in basketball.outstanding practice.Evaluation Beginning of lesson: Good relationships and attitudes evident from the beginning, as pupils arrive.Learning objectives very clear and specific; displayed on board throughout the lesson to encourage referring back tothem.Good self assessment to give pupils a clear starting point on where they are in terms of basketball skills. Pupils areasked to deduce for themselves where they are on the scale, using the criteria. They then decide what they need todo to improve to next level – teacher is giving pupils responsibility for their own learning. He allows enough time forthe activity and pupils concentrate well.Paired discussion of what they need to do to improve provides good chance to discuss and valuable change of activity.Pupils discuss well; they are clearly accustomed to working in pairs, listening, discussing etc.Warm up: teacher involving pupils in planning warm up. He questions well, always giving everyone time to think.Background theory is covered quickly and efficiently before and during warm up. Reinforcement is sometimes almostimperceptible (e.g. pupils naming muscles as they stretch them) but nevertheless valuable. Non-participant effectivelyused to photograph activities. Pupils lead the first stage of warm up and do so well. Pupils devise their own specificwarm-up for basketball – good independence.Class moves between activities very quickly and efficiently; no time is wasted and pace always maintained but there isno sense of rushing – all is calm and unhurried.Dribbling exercise: Dribbling skills vary but all are trying hard. Very good resources at this stage (cue cards) andthroughout the lesson. Again pupils self assess, reading the cards and thinking before discussing.Dribbling practice builds up cleverly to maintain pupils’ concentration and lead on, via adding an opportunity to shoot,to next objective. Peer assessment of dribbling skills is well used and leads to good improvement in skills, notably inincreased use of both hands. Pupils coach each other well, if slightly self-consciously at times, and their advice issensible and balanced. Advice is well received by partners at all stages in the lesson.Teacher empathises well with pupils: ‘I do that all the time as well’. He makes good use of pupils to demo. pivotingand move the class on to developing this next skill. He makes just enough reference to rules etc. – not enough to slowthe lesson down or restrict pupils’ opportunity to practise. Teacher skilfully helps pupils anticipate the bigger, moreinteresting drill to come; encourages them to try hard for a short time on the current one. Teacher’s knowledge andunderstanding is excellent; predicts what will happen in team game. No ‘marking time’; teacher is constantly askingfor improvement in every drill. He makes good use of humour. He introduces the element of competition to addinterest to the end of the lesson.Peer assessment continues and eventually teacher refers back to learning objectives and pupils are asked to identifyone thing they need to do to improve their pivot.Homework: Teacher is enthusiastic about the website and cleverly encourages pupils to visit it without insisting. He isusing homework well to encourage pupils to find out the rules (3 sec., 5 sec. etc.) of basketball. Good use of theirtime enables maximum use of lesson time for practical activities. Lesson ends with appropriate warm down.Summary of main pointsA lesson in which all aspects were at least good. Particular strengths were the seamless inclusion of backgroundtheory with every aspect of the practical skill development and the extremely effective use of time so that pupils wereconstantly and quickly developing their skills but with no sense of rush and always with enough time to think. The useof self and peer assessment were excellent and made a very good contribution to pupils learning. Pupils concentratedwell and worked hard throughout so that they made very good progress in developing basketball skills.Judgement on the overall quality of the lesson (Leave blank when not a lesson) 1 = Outstanding, 4 = Inadequate 1Use for grades if there is sufficient evidence: Personal Care, guidance & Leadership & Standards Progress Teaching Curriculum development support management 1 1 1 1Particular evaluations related to safety, health, enjoyment, contribution to the community, economic well-beingAll activities were well planned and organised and teacher was constantly vigilant to ensure safety. (ECM 2)Pupils certainly enjoyed this lesson and achieved very well in improving their basketball skills. (ECM 3)Document reference number: HMI 2506