After the decision was made by Ofsted to no longer grade the quality of teaching in individual learning sessions from September 2015, I have been pondering the question: ‘what now?’
As an advocate of dropping individual lesson grading for years, the news was initially a relief to me and I nodded a sigh for students and colleagues alike, as I understand how the pressure to ‘receive a grade 1’ can deflect from the focus of why we entered into this profession in the first place. The industry based box ticking assessment exercise of judging a teacher’s merits based on a snippet of a session could, I used to think, be demoralising and was a great cause of stress and anxiety to many.
Once the news settled that Ofsted PCET (FE and skills providers) inspections would follow suit with the removal of grading, I questioned the reasons why I had originally wanted grading to be removed. After all, I asked myself, are observations of teaching and learning not an opportunity rather than a threat? Perhaps they are, and if so, and if we feel under pressure to raise standards and aspirations and to continually consider the impact we make as practitioners, is that not a positive thing?
So if this is the case, how do we ensure that teachers continually strive to achieve a positive OTL outcome if we are not graded? I am also now faced with the question of how to go about recording the impact of teaching and learning during an OTL schedule within initial teacher training. Is the removal of grading an opportunity to look wholly upon the quality of the learning within the classroom, rather than labeling the teacher with a number? Are teachers and ITE students going to read into comments and decide for themselves a judgement of a grade?
I am eagerly awaiting the publication of Ofsted’s handbook of FE and skills in a couple of weeks to give me further guidance on this, but for now I am working on the assumption that our new observation practices should provide more of an opportunity for professional development rather than judgement. Furthermore, whilst developing our OTL procedures for a new cohort of students, I will aim for an holistic focus on the impact of learning, which could encourage professional reflection techniques and thus encourage the teacher to have more of an autonomy with the process. The focus to me now is on the end game – action planning for professional development and for this to be seamlessly and directly informed by the evaluative language of evidence based judgements used to analyse the impact of teaching and learning.
I am currently working on a very loose and somewhat twee (constructive feedback from my colleagues) matrix of evaluative language which could perhaps help to inform feedback and drive action planning. It is my hope that the new OTL schedule we are developing will have a positive outcome for both our trainee teachers and, most importantly, as a result make a difference to their own students’ learning experiences.
I am hopeful that this move will be a new opportunity for our profession. We’ll see!