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How lesson monitoring has evolved in education

Observations of teaching and learning have been an important feature in the majority of schools since they became a key part of the Ofsted inspection process. It is only recently that the validity of the traditional lesson observation is being questioned.

Andy Goodeve  Andy Goodeve
Rebecca Howitt  Rebecca Howitt
May 2022

As education has evolved, over the decades, monitoring seems to have remained a fixed entity, as deemed by many, they are the most effective method in identifying the quality of teaching and learning. Observations of teaching and learning have been an important feature in the majority of schools since they became a key part of the Ofsted inspection process. It is only recently that the validity of the traditional lesson observation is being questioned.

Lesson monitoring, prior to the September 2005 Ofsted framework, was deemed the most accurate way to judge teaching and learning, making up typically 60% of the time during an inspection. As Ofsted was using this indicator measure, schools aligned to the ‘rules of the game’ and internal processes of judging teaching used Ofsted criteria lesson monitoring.

Lessons are no longer graded by Ofsted, but there are schools that continue to grade as they feel grading is key in providing reliable evidence on the quality of teaching and learning.

In many schools and colleges, however, there is now a greater emphasis on teaching and learning over time, rather than a traditional lesson observation which only provides a snapshot in time. Lesson observations rely on making a connection between what you are seeing and a belief regarding the amount of learning that has taken place. It is difficult to quantify how much learning has taken place during a lesson and this judgement is mostly based on an observer's feeling’. While observing the learning, the observer may have a tendency to successfully ‘judge’ lessons based on how the lesson aligns with their own view on quality teaching.  

As we are aware, teaching varies from day to day and lesson to lesson. Sometimes certain approaches work and sometimes they don’t. A successful teacher is able to adapt a lesson to the needs of the pupils and therefore isn’t relying on following a lesson plan ‘word for word’ as they are able to accurately identify the starting point and provide challenges towards the goal.  Teaching, therefore, needs to be ‘judged’ over time, using a variety of different sources, to identify the ‘typical/normal’ standard of teaching and learning for a particular member of staff.

Successful schools have developed a monitoring tool kit to assess the quality of teaching and learning over time. This has been created to triangulate evidence and includes; 

  • Lesson monitoring

  • Learning walks.

  • "Drop-ins" 

  • Pupil interviews

  • Work scrutinies 

  • Data analysis


Learning over time aligns with the September 2012 introduction of the teaching standards which were intended to be used for a range of purposes that included assessing the competence of teachers. The standards include;


  • Setting high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils  

  • Promoting good progress and outcomes by pupils  

  • Demonstrating good subject and curriculum knowledge  

  • Planning and teaching well-structured lessons  

  • Adapting teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils  

  • Making accurate and productive use of assessment  

  • Managing behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment 

  • Teachers and other staff have consistently high expectations of what each pupil can achieve, including disadvantaged pupils and the ablest 

A range of evidence is collected against these standards rather than making a judgement against an individual lesson.

The ‘lesson observation’ in successful schools has evolved and focuses on the pupils' learning rather than the performance of the teacher. Rather than having a large quantity of ‘observed’ lessons, it is more about the quality and the impact of the observer on the teacher in changing the way they teach.

Schools can have a large number of regular monitoring activities, but observing lessons without having an impact is at best ineffective and at worst damaging to teacher workload and morale.

Changing the way teachers teach is the challenge faced within a lot of schools because it involves changing long-established habits. Identifying an area for development will not necessarily prompt the change.

“We have been focusing on getting teachers to think their way into a new way of acting, whereas it would be far more effective to get teachers to act their way into a new way of thinking.” (Dylan Wiliam 2010)

The future of monitoring is focused on a larger resource toolkit for quality assurance activities. It is less about them being used at a specific time, but more when needed. Less about being used on someone, but more of a change in culture towards collaboration, where teachers and observers work together to identify strengths, areas for development, and share professional knowledge that improves the quality of teaching and learning and the outcomes for children.

How does SchooliP support the ‘Monitoring Toolkit’?

As described earlier, there is a wealth of benefits in using a range of observation and monitoring forms to highlight areas of strength and areas for development across a school.  There is no limit to the amount and type of form you may wish to create, for example:-

  • Lesson monitoring

  • Self-Reflective practice 

  • Learning walks

  • "Drop-ins" 

  • Pupil interviews

  • Work scrutinies 

  • Data analysis

  • Teacher self-reflective 

  • Coaching and Mentoring support

  • Peer Review

  • Probationary Period forms


Monitoring forms can be used to glean information from one member of staff to whole departments or entire organisations.  They can be created for informal/formal monitoring self-reflective self-improvement tools, and indeed anything in-between.  The same questions can be posed in different forms for different audiences, in preparation for reporting and analysing down to a granular level.  Forms can be created with the intention for a colleague to complete or for the staff member themselves to complete.  In short, the scope is endless and the features and functions are flexible.

The big question though is how to make the completion of the observation and monitoring forms easy to set up, administer and use, and then how to make sense of the data gleaned from across a variety of resources.  SchooliP makes this easy!  Let’s review each area step by step:-

  1. Setting up an observation/monitoring form in SchooliP

  2. Administering a form in SchooliP

  3. Completing a form in SchooliP

  4. Data analysis and reporting of monitoring/monitoring in SchooliP

Watch the video here to gain a quick overview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LbbEsJO7IQ 

Setting up an observation/monitoring form in SchooliP

The simplest solution is to send your existing form to us.   We will spend time discussing the best options for set-up in relation to your expected outcomes, and then SchooliP will create it for you. Alternatively, book in for FREE and UNLIMITED online training here https://www.derventioeducation.com/book-a-meeting 

In no time at all, you will have created the form reflecting the questions that are important to your organisation.  Perhaps something similar to the forms below.

2.  Administering observation/monitoring forms in SchooliP

The process of administering has never been easier!  The freshly created SchooliP observation/monitoring form/survey now needs to be assigned and then completed by an observer or the staff member themselves.  

So how do you assign a form?

Once all of the templates have been created, then a Line Manager/Site Administrator or another staff member with the correct permission can schedule and run monitoring.  There are a few ways to do this. Get an overview by watching the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-3xnQKCvUY&t=3s.

3.  Completing a form in SchooliP

How the Observer completes the form depends on the design of your form, the headers, questions and tools used.  The one below is made up of questions with a single select answer with the option of adding supporting comments.


When the form is completed:-  What Next > Save (to come back to immediately) / Save & Close (to come back to later) / Submit to finish and send to the appraisee.

4.  Data analysis and reporting of monitoring/monitoring in SchooliP

The SchooliP reporting functionality makes light work of data analysis of a single form and indeed of data across multiple forms. A wealth of data can be gleaned by those in school who have access to ‘My Reports’ in SchooliP, usually the Leadership Team, in order to respond and support appropriately.

Data can be produced and refined ready for sharing at the click of a mouse.  An organisation can use pre-set reports or create bespoke reports utilising a sophisticated filtering system.  Data can be analysed per question gradings and groupings, per specific question breakdown, question comments and a combination of all.  It's easy to see staff with overdue or indeed no monitoring set.  In no other way is data handled with such ease.

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