ELM October 2014

Page 7

REFERENCES Jacob, B., & Lefgren, L. (2008). Can Principals Identify Effective Teachers? Evidence on subjective performance evaluation in education. Journal of Labor Economics, 26(1), 101-136. Kane, T.J. & Staiger, D.O. (2012). Gathering Feedback for Teaching: Combining High-Quality Observations with Student Surveys and Achievement Gains. MET Project Research Paper. Seattle, WA: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Medley, D. M., & Coker, H. (1987). The Accuracy of Principals’ Judgments of Teacher Performance. Journal of Educational Research, 80(4), 242-247. Pearson, T. (2014). Lesson Observation: How Trustworthy are Graded Observations? FE News [online] at www. fenews.co.uk/featuredarticle/lesson-observationhow-trustworthy-are-gradedobservations [accessed 25 July 2014]. Strong, M., Gargani, J. & Hacifazlioğlu, Ö. (2011). Do We Know a Successful Teacher When We See One? Experiments in the Identification of Effective Teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(4), 367-382.


THE MOST POSITIVE RESPONSE LEADERS AND MANAGERS CAN MAKE IS TO ACKNOWLEDGE AND TAKE HEED OF THE FINDINGS FROM THE RESEARCH. one-off graded lesson observations are both a valuable and a trustworthy leadership and management practice. So how might we expect senior leaders and managers in our schools and colleges to respond to the findings of these studies, given it is doubtful that schools and colleges will have the resources needed to improve the trustworthiness of graded lesson observations to an acceptable level? Of course, it is possible to carry on as if nothing needs to change. However, this is unlikely to be productive, as one of the key tasks of leaders and managers in our colleges is to ensure unreliable data is not used to inform decision-making. An alternative reaction might be to simply remove the numerical grade that is awarded to lesson observations in the future. This, too, is unlikely to be helpful. Most graded lesson observations

do not only have a numerical element, they also contain a descriptive element, and discarding only one of these will make little, if any, difference at all. An observation will still be categorised and, consequently, will still have a label attached to it. The most positive response leaders and managers can make is to acknowledge and take heed of the findings from the research. Senior managers might review their organisations’ policies to identify where important decisions depend upon the use of judgements from graded lesson observations. This review will include, for example, decisions that relate to determining a teacher’s pay, evaluating a teacher’s performance and promoting teaching staff. It is highly probable that it is not essential for information from graded lesson observations to feature in these types of decisions. There are plenty

of other sources of data that can be used to arrive at a credible judgement of a teacher’s performance. Leaders and managers might also reassess the way lesson observations are deployed. It may be worthwhile ascertaining how many different models of lesson observation they currently use and establishing to what extent the organisation relies upon any particular type. Leaders and managers will then be able to make much better informed decisions about how best to advance the use of lesson observations in their places of work. There are many forms of lesson observation that are not beset with the problems of worth and trustworthiness that plague graded lesson observations. Leaders and managers could do a lot worse than explore how some of these can be put to good effect in their organisations. 3 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Terry Pearson is a former FE senior manager with experience of observing teaching in a wide variety of settings and developing effective systems for lesson observation. He now works as an independent education consultant. He can be tweeted @TPLTD or emailed at terrypearsonltd@gmail.com.

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