02 Aug 2013

‘What works is what’s good’ Wilshaw

Heather Leatt did a great job of highlighting the revisions to the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook: www.heatherleatt.co.uk/ofsted-school-inspection-handbook-september-2013 It has prompted these observations.

Teaching styles

There have been a number of comments from colleagues that Ofsted inspectors expect to see certain styles of teaching. This is not the case. Inspectors have been told for some time not to privilege one style of teaching over another. This is now made clear in the revised document. Sir Michael Wilshaw also talked about what makes a good teacher in his 2012 RSA speech.


There is an interesting section in Ofsted’s ‘Moving English Forward 2012′. It is the summary document for English. www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/moving-english-forward. It also contains some generic observations about teaching and learning. It found that the effectiveness of learning in some lessons was limited by common misconceptions about what constitutes good teaching and learning. These include:

An inflexible approach to planning lessons

Inspectors have not expected to see lesson plans for some time. This is now made explicit in the revised framework. School policies sometimes insist that all lesson plans should always follow the same structure, no matter what is being taught. In addition, evidence from the report suggest that teachers often feel that they should not alter their plans during the lesson. The notion of a three- or four- part structure to lessons with certain key elements, such as a lively starter activity and an opportunity to review learning at the end is helpful to teachers. However, teachers need to have the confidence to depart from their plans if early indications are, for example, that the pupils know more or less than the teacher anticipated. The key consideration should be the development of pupils’ learning rather than sticking rigidly to a plan. Lesson plans are often so detailed that they get in the way of flexibility or responses from learners. What Mick Waters calls ‘planning blight’.

The document has also some interesting things to say about pace and the number of activities in a lesson.


There seems to be a belief that the faster the lesson, the better the learning. While pace is important – a slow lesson is likely to lose pupils’ concentration – teachers too often concentrate on the pace of their planning activities rather than the pace of learning. For example, a teacher told an inspector that they had bee advised that a starter activity should never last longer than 10 minutes. While this may be a sensible starting point for discussion, a starter activity, like any other activity, needs to last only as long as is needed to secure effective learning.

The number of activities

Some teachers appear to believe that the more activities they can cram into the lesson, the more effective it will be. This is often counterproductive, as activities are changed so often that pupils do not complete tasks and learning is not consolidated or extended. And in these lessons, the teacher is often working harder than the learners.

So, less is usually more. And if it works, it’s going to be good.

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