Notes for Lesson Observers and Learning Walkers

1. Learning is invisible and happens over time, so attempting to measure progress in a single lesson is futile

2. Judgements made on the quality of teaching (unless at the very extremes) are unreliable

3. Different observers are very likely to arrive at different judgements on the quality of teaching

4. Most teachers believe that good quality teaching is easy to identify, but it’s not

5. We are likely to judge lessons with visible activity more favourably (e.g. students moving around)

6. Observers tend to be biased towards classes that contain pupils with a high-ability profile

7. Teachers who achieve poor results in one year might not achieve similarly poor results in the next

8. Performance and learning are different

9. Students need to struggle in order to learn and the less they struggle, the less they are likely to learn

10. Considering contextual factors beyond the usual metrics (e.g. prior attainment and target grades) is important

11. Observers will inevitably miss a lot of what goes on in a lesson

12. Unobservable factors matter (e.g. family background and access to additional tuition).


Time spent on lesson observations and learning walks can’t be invested elsewhere.  The opportunity cost of using just a hour or so for a couple of observations is significant if the only meagre outcome is the generation of a few vague targets.  That’s not to suggest that getting around a department and in and out of classrooms is a waste of time.  Quite the opposite.  However, if lesson observations and learning walks are going to be of any use at all, it’s vital that they are developmental in nature and result in meaningful, professional conversations – otherwise, all they’ll do is help fuel a demotivating and disempowering audit culture. 

Thanks for reading –




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Find a recent blog post on Judging the Quality of Student Work here 

judging student work