When I was a young(er) teacher, I learnt a few tricks of observations.
As an NQT, I knew that my mentor wanted to see a calm environment; she saw it as an indicator of the all-important behaviour management. And so I obliged.
In later years I had a Head of Year for whom I always included something that engendered good engagement – all the better if it was on coloured paper. Another subject leader rated talk partners, and so they always appeared in lessons in which I was observed.
When marking became the thing, I’d always ensure that I grouped children in my observed lessons according the work I’d marked the night before. Rarely did I do it at any other time, but it ticked the box.
And then it was progress in the lesson. So every observed lesson, I ensured that I asked children to do something at the start of the lesson (often giving them rather too little time or guidance), before teaching them some new skill and asking them to try the task again, with evident improvement clear for the observer to see.
A cynic might suggest that these things didn’t help children make progress, but rather than created the illusion of progress for the observer.
And now it’s progress over time. But I’m a cynic.
The latest craze seems to be for hot and cold tasks and the like. Now I’m sure there are many arguments for this approach in some cases, but it seems that the main reason put forward is for its ability to “demonstrate progress over time”.
It’s the drawn out version of my “progress in a lesson” trick, to show progress over a period of days or weeks. It offers the evidence on a plate to our external judges; it stops them from ‘catching us out’ on that tickbox in the Ofsted framework.
But frankly, if an inspector can’t see progress over time by looking in books, then either there is something very wrong with the books.. or the inspector!
Progress over time is when children go from using simple multiplication facts to being able to use the standard written method.
Progress over time is children who use repetitive sentence structures in September, are showing more variety by January.
Progress over time is a well-planned curriculum that builds on prior learning and extends pupils’ experiences.
We shouldn’t be finding ways of making progress over time evident; we need to be finding ways to make progress over time happen. The evidence will come. And if that means dragging the inspector to see it, then so be it.