The school where I work has recently been inspected by Estyn, the education inspectorate in Wales. (Estyn is Welsh for reach and works in a manner similar to Ofsted). I wanted to take some time to reflect on the preparation and delivery of my teaching now that the dust has settled. I find that writing takeaways, questions and items to ponder helps my thought process and may (or may not!) be of interest to others in the teaching profession.
I took lots of time planning lessons for the week of the inspection. As I had ensured that my feedback, admin etc for that week was already in order, I could spend nearly all of my working time meticulous planning lessons. Although the time spent to planning wasn’t typical of a normal week, I was determined to be consistent with my approach, activities and style of teaching. I certainly wasn’t going to roll out groupwork, card sorts and other approaches I was taught during my PGCE which I now consider to have a poor ‘teacher effort to learning’ ratio. Instead, I set about refining my usual lesson presentations and resources. The extra time I allocated was spent researching topics in depth, from the theory of the maths through to the best resources I could find. For instance, I found out that the particular case of the Intermediate Value Theorem (IVT) where a change of sign indicates a root is called Bolzano’s Theorem (Bernard Bolzano is pictured above). Being a fan of the historical aspect of Maths I did some more digging and promptly added this to my lesson. This meant I could distinguish between cases of the IVT whilst adding a little historical colour. This extra bit of time spent planning not only improved my delivery of this lesson to my class, but will benefit every class which I teach this topic to. Other refinements to topics which I have taught countless times before include using the topic of similar shapes in 2D and 3D to justify why animals tend to be larger in cold climates and why large ferries exist. Takeaway: Prioritise allocating more time to planning lessons – even (especially?) to topics which I have taught before. Question: How can I allocate/justify allocating more time to planning lessons when I can fall back on last year’s version given that I have 100+ other things on my to do list?!
During the inspection week and whilst on break duty with @MrWiseCHS, I mentioned that my lessons were going really well (even if I said so myself) although I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t been visited yet by the inspectors. He asked me how I knew they were going well and I responded with my observations around their engagement, good behaviour and completion of the set tasks to a good standard. He quite correctly pointed out that none of these were evidence of the students learning – obviously the main point of why we are here. How did I know that students were learning rather than simply performing well? My gut instinct of my experience suggests they were learning but as we know that learning happens over a long period of time I guess that I cannot be sure that their rate of learning was any better than normal – despite what I had originally thought of my lessons. Takeaway: Consider the learning of students first and foremost and always remember that lessons that look successful actually may not be. Question: How could I assess what impact (if any) did the increase in planning time have on how much students learnt? Would it be worth investigating?
Books & Folders
In the lead up to the inspection I spent some time ensuring that students’ books were in good order. I checked the presentation of students’ work and checked that both the students and I were consistently following our department’s feedback policy. I then allocated some lesson time for students to glue in loose sheets and review and act upon my recent feedback. Writing in CAPS on post it notes on the front cover of some students’ books gave me the chance to vent and make sure that particular students didn’t miss any key messages. For KS5 we introduced folders in September to give them a structure to organise themselves after years of huge variation between students in the quality and organisation of their work. Variation was still apparent but I was generally happy with their notes. I hadn’t seen their folders for a while as we concentrate only on homework when it comes to collecting and marking their work. I think more regular, shorter folder checks could work well here. Takeaway: Give students more time in lessons to review feedback and to organise their books/folders. Question: What’s the best way to tackle poor presentation/effort in students’ books and how important is this?
Generally I try to avoid making resources as there usually exists something similar to what I want. On occasions where I can’t find anything suitable I have to make my own or substantially alter an existing idea. I do tend to enjoy the process if I give myself time to do it properly, which I did for this week. I spent some time making worksheets for a GCSE Intermediate class practising finding area of a circle, and a worksheet on 2D and 3D similar shapes for a GCSE higher class. Examples of both are below – please feel free to use/edit as you see fit!
Any questions/comments on any of the points above welcomed – cheers.