Getting the measure of progress

Showing inspectors how students have improved over a single lesson is a daunting task but it can be done. Here's a seven-point plan to help
6th March 2015, 12:00am
Mark Damon Chutter


Getting the measure of progress

The day has arrived. The door swings open. An inspector calls. I have planned my lesson but how do I demonstrate my students' progress to the observer from Ofsted?

Some may argue that learner progress is not measurable in a single lesson because it happens over time. I would say this is not entirely true; you can show progress over a single lesson but you also need to demonstrate the distance travelled - ie, the broader learning journey.

So how do you do it? Here are seven steps that have worked in my class.

1 Spell it out

If you want the inspector to see where the students are on their learning journey, the students need to know first. Ensure that every student recognises the starting point and objective of the topic, how far they are from the target and what they need to do to get to the end successfully.

2 Make connections

It is crucial to make connections with previous learning. You can do this by creating thought-provoking starter activities that are ready to go as soon as the students arrive. Tasks should encourage independent study that reviews and extends learning and prepares for the lesson about to be taught.

3 Learning objectives should be visible

Write objectives down on worksheets and resources, have them stated clearly on the board and constantly refer to them so that they are "live" throughout the session. Get learners to refer to the objectives, too, and think about how far they have got in achieving them. For the plenary, ask students to self-assess or recap what they have learned and state whether they have met the objectives. If they haven't, why not? And why is it important to learn this lesson?

4 Questions are the answer

Questioning is an incredibly useful tool. Use it to extend, challenge and stretch your students; ask them how and why, and encourage them to "explain more" or "expand a little". We should not just be highlighting lesson objectives but guiding students to meet them and then move past them. Doing this with questioning makes the learning visible.

5 Meet everyone's needs

Students should be kept on their toes through an eclectic range of differentiated activities. If they know what to expect, they won't make an effort and this will be obvious to anyone watching. In the same vein, always have an extension task or two ready for more able learners and ensure you are responding well to the learning requirements of students with special educational needs. If you are working with a colleague to support SEN students, make sure you liaise with them before the inspection lesson so they can assist in formulating and monitoring learning objectives.

6 It's all about the learner

Make sure that your lessons are learner-centred. As a rough rule, I would say 70 per cent of the session should be student-led. Stepping back from being the expert means that you allow learners to showcase their skills, learn independently and take charge of their progress.

7 Self-assessment is key

This can be done in a number of ways. For example, a target tracker sheet for self-assessing and recording progress is a fantastic tool for the student as well as a useful record for observers. The targets could be learning objectives but they could also be personal learning goals or specific aims for developing vocational, personal and social development, or functional skills. It is essential that the targets be written by the student so they can take ownership of their own learning and progress.

It is important to note that all these strategies put the student first and should be carried out whether you are being inspected or not. Ofsted may be frightening enough to make us go the extra mile, but these tips should form an integral part of every lesson. After all, we are not here to please the inspector but to teach. The students should be at the heart of everything we do. Showing progress within a lesson may result in a good observation, but the bigger reward is a positive outcome for the people you teach.

Mark Damon Chutter has been a senior teaching and learning development adviser, faculty lead, head of department, course leader and lecturer and has taught in a range of further education establishments and schools

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