Reflections of the new Ofsted comments.Posted: February 21, 2014
Since reading the Ofsted document published today, I have been thinking about its implications on my teaching. All year I have been pushing myself to be a better teacher (and that is one of the reasons for this blog). I have aimed to think more about what I do in the classroom and with how I give feedback to students. A lot of this has manifested itself in what would sometimes be dubbed “wizzy” teaching. However, I have also tried to think about the basics of teaching, the things I picked up in my training. The report from Ofsted today seems to increase the importance of the latter. In my earlier blog today I quoted from the text this part:
“I was speaking to a colleague today, one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors. He reminded me it is all about outcomes and that it does work both ways. In a classroom he was in recently, a teacher produced, literally, an all-singing, all-dancing lesson. There was music, comedy, costumes, games, ‘thinking hats’, and all with clear objectives on the whiteboard. He recorded a teaching quality grade of inadequate. Not because of the ‘performance’ on the day but because students’ graffiti-strewn books hadn’t been marked for six months and work was shoddy or incomplete. In contrast, he graded teaching as outstanding in a classroom where students sat reading in silence because of the exceptional quality of students’ work and the teacher’s marking in exercise books. He told both teachers what his conclusions were.”
We always think, and are often led to believe from Ofsted themselves, senior teachers and education bloggers/writers that we should be showing off in lessons, proving to the inspector in the room what we can do when we are at our best. However, the comments suggest that what they are looking for it not a show but actually a snapshot of what we are do every day. I do think it brave to have inspectors into the room when all the class is doing is reading, but it is also confident. In many ways the flaw comes in the phrasing of my previous sentence: “all the class is doing is reading” suggests that reading is unimportant, uneventful. Yet, actually, firstly it is fundamental and a significantly basic skill but secondly, maybe Ofsted want to see something that is not an “event”.
Teaching trends change. At the moment it seems to be towards active learning, something student led and teacher facilitated with many voices in the blogosphere pushing and selling ideas for different ways to push the boat out in this way. Ofsted’s trends change as well and it is hard to see which one should lead the way. However, maybe their comments to day in the report tell us that we need to step back from being the show off teachers, and look to what matter most, more than lesson gradings and effusive feedback: the learning of students.