Evolving Lesson Monitoring

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
17 February 2023

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.

Are you a customer?
Simply call and ask to speak with your Customer Success Manager to discuss your training needs.
Please remember, all online training is FREE and UNLIMITED.

Not a customer?
What can I do to find out more
Call on +44 (0) 333 0433 450 or e-mail

Software you and your team will love. Now up to 20% off *

Book Demo

* Order must be placed before the end of MONTH YEAR. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer.

Demo Popup