Classroom observation is proven to raise school standards says Estyn’s chief inspector

Effective classroom observation is proven to improve teaching and raise levels of attainment, according to a new report published by Wales’ education watchdog Estyn. This is from Wales Online

Chief inspector Ann Keane said that while some question whether classroom observation is helpful in raising standards, Estyn’s visits to successful and improving schools confirm that it can pay dividends.

She encouraged all schools to review their use of classroom observation as part teachers’ professional development and said school leaders should strive to develop “a clear policy for classroom observation with the aim of raising standards of teaching”…

In her report, lead inspector Penny Lewis said classroom observation was most effective when leaders established a positive culture of improvement, self-evaluation and professional learning.

“In these schools, staff view classroom observation as a professional entitlement and as an integral part of effective team working. Staff are keen to share practice and to support each other’s professional learning,” she said.

“In the few schools where there is effective practice, school policies set out clearly the purposes and the arrangements for classroom observation. This helps to ensure that all staff receive consistent information about the reasons and expectations for classroom observation.”

In practical terms, Ms Lewis said classroom observation was most effective when the teacher and observer had time before the observation to discuss the focus of their session and to share relevant information about the class.

She said it was best to draw on a wide range of evidence which included more than one classroom visit, planning, assessment records, scrutiny of pupils’ work and listening to learners themselves.

Conversely, Ms Lewis said teachers and support staff could be “overly concerned” about classroom observation in schools where a culture of self-evaluation and self-improvement was not well established…

Ms Keane said: “Some have questioned whether classroom observation is helpful in improving the quality of teaching. The visits we made to successful and improving schools confirm that effective observation can both improve teaching and raise levels of attainment.

“Classroom observation, underpinned by a well-established culture of improvement, is at its most effective when combined with other types of evaluation that involve scrutinising the work of learners and listening to the learner voice.

“In this context, observation can contribute to building up a rounded picture of teaching and learning, rather than being just a snap-shot of one lesson.

“I encourage all schools to review the use they make of classroom observation as part of self-evaluation in support of teachers’ professional development. Schools should develop a clear policy for classroom observation with the aim of raising standards of teaching in schools.”

Rex Phillips, Wales organiser for teachers’ union NASUWT, said lesson observation can be counter-productive.

He criticised what he described as “an army of teacher watchers” and accused Estyn of undermining the “lawful action” that is being undertaken by members of NASUWT and NUT over excessive classroom observation…

More at: Classroom observation is proven to raise school standards says chief inspector


Obviously a complex issue and more about how it is done than whether it is done, but what do you make of Ann Keane’s comments and suggestions? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link!

Police under fire after 'delaying' investigation into paedophile teacher for nine months
GCSEs: HIV and Aids to be included in science lessons on sexual health
Categories: Teaching and Wales.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Time to discuss obs focus; time to plan lesson; time to discuss obs & points to move forward. Where’s the time coming from?

  2. Trundling17

    SchoolsImprove Perhaps but only when ultimate aim is truly one of support. Many these days done in culture of fear which = toxic school

  3. andylutwyche

    Trundling17 SchoolsImprove Rarely is one of support; feedback often begins with “what Ofsted want to see is…” then a stab in the dark

  4. inspirechild

    Trundling17 SchoolsImprove the true leader wants to get the best out of their staff and not condemn. Fear hampers creativity.

  5. neilayates

    inspirechild SchoolsImprove Critically need to be carried out against backdrop of No Excuses No Blame. Honesty then working together

  6. Trundling17

    inspirechild andylutwyche SchoolsImprove A few years ago we welcomed obs at my schl as a tool 4 reflection &improvement. Now all detest.

  7. kylemarshesq

    cherrylkd SchoolsImprove development of teachers means better learning. This should be the sole function of observation.

  8. rrunsworth

    SchoolsImprove Para 7 says it all, classroom observations only part of picture, though crucial element. SLT/GB must ensure right culture

  9. The evidence is fairly clear on this:  Where observations are hierarchical and judgemental, they create fear and are detrimental.  Where observations are between peers, are mutual and are ‘formative assessment for teachers’, they can be successful.
    The vital element is ‘relational trust’: If senior staff view teachers as ‘the problem’ and want them to do what they are told, improvement is hard.  However, where SMT see teachers as experts and provide a supportive environment for peer-mentoring, experimentation and sharing best practice, improvements follow.
    In running training sessions around the UK we have not found exceptions to the evidence.
    Feel free to join EBTN and get the evidence, not just opinion.

  10. PaulGarvey4

    SchoolsImprove No. As she says: it is ‘proven’ only “where a culture of self-evaluation and self-improvement was already well established…”

  11. andylutwyche

    “PaulGarvey4: andylutwyche inspirechild SchoolsImprove Then help to change it.” How as a “run of the mill” classroom practitioner?

  12. drmattoleary

    SchoolsImprove having just produced a report on experiences of FE teachers in Wales re. observation, lot of overlap with that of England

  13. PaulGarvey4

    andylutwyche inspirechild SchoolsImprove There are no “run of the mill” classroom practitioners. Teachers are quite simply brilliant…..

  14. PaulGarvey4

    andylutwyche inspirechild SchoolsImprove Then Try again! Come on Andy! We can change this. Positive vibes here – this really will change!

  15. andylutwyche

    PaulGarvey4 inspirechild SchoolsImprove Nice of you to say but know lots of colleagues who dream of feeling “run of the mill” at the mo

  16. andylutwyche

    PaulGarvey4 inspirechild SchoolsImprove Have to admit, struck down with man flu I am lacking positivity! But not sensing much normally

  17. James Lisbon

    I liked when the article mentioned that classroom observation is a way to not only see what is being taught and how the kids are receiving it, but also how the teacher acts and teaches.   There seem to be different benefits to observing a classroom, but it would probably depend on the class and the circumstances.  However, if it can help kids learn and teachers improve, then it seems like it could be a good thing.

  18. hedleyfulton83

    Classroom observation really is important for so many reasons. You really want to make sure that your teachers are properly teaching their students. Observations are also a good way to learn of different teaching techniques that different teachers have that work. Observing other classrooms would definitely be a good way to help you get better ideas for your classroom.

Let us know what you think...