In trying to work out what actually makes a good lesson people’s opinions vary. Some like students to have fun. Some maintain that all objectives must be met, whereas some simply expect the students to be safe!
In deciding what actually does make a good lesson it seemed a simplistic starting point to look at Ofsted’s definition of a good lesson. We all know how lengthy Ofsted’s documents can be so I have decided to summarise their definition whilst giving some practical ideas:
1. All students make satisfactory progress; most make good progress.
Progress needs to be monitored throughout the lesson. There are various ways to do this - using question/answer, discussion etc. However, Ofsted like you to prove that progress is being made so tasks must assess each student. One example is to use A4 sized whiteboards and ask questions. You can count "1... 2... 3... show" (and all students have to display their boards). This allows you to quickly assess how much progress is being made as well as assessing students understanding.
2. Most students know what they are doing and why.
This needs to be regularly checked. It can be done through question and answer, small group tasks, discussion etc. It is imperative that instructions from yourself are clear, concise and effective. You can often gauge this at the end by asking students to write on a post-it note what they have and have not understood. These can then be placed on the board for you to view.
3. Students behave well - little time is lost to behavioural issues.
Challenge lateness immediately and continually check that students remain on task. Pose questions to potentially disruptive students and to engage them where possible. One example is to use sporting scenarios to teach Maths, English etc.
4. The classroom is a friendly and safe place - relationships are good.
Fiedler suggested that a relationship style of leadership is best for moderately favourable situations (i.e. moderately favourable environment, resources, student motivation etc). He argued in very good or very bad situations the teacher should focus clearly on getting tasks done without worrying about relationships.
However, the safety of students is paramount. Quite simply, NO chances can be taken!!
5. The teacher knows his/her subject and strategies for teaching it well; the teaching methods used are appropriate for the content.
Ofsted have an obvious expectation that the subject knowledge of the teacher is extensive. If you are teaching A Level, don't place yourself in difficult situations. NEVER guess the answer to potentially problematic student questions. Either set it for them to find out as a homework task or explain that you don't want to 'fob them off' and will double check the answer before giving them an answer later!
Use different styles of teaching. Command style is needed with difficult groups or if you are short on time. However, self-discovery (albeit time consuming) can leave a lasting impression on students.
6. The teaching is well-matched to the learners' needs; most are stretched by the teaching.
Differentiation is a must! A basic expectation of students must exist but always have an extension task up your sleeve. As a tip, don't let the clever students know that an extension task is available. Wait until they have finished and spring the surprise!
7. The teacher encourages and praises frequently.
Praise can be written, gestured, verbal etc. Positive reinforcement of behaviour, answers and excellence has been proven to be the best way to ensure that similar results happen again. Keep students behind - they will think they are getting told off - and explain to them you didn't want to embarrass them... you just wanted to say well done. A personal touch will work and will be appreciated.
8. Available resources (time, staff etc) are well used.
Ofsted love use of varying resources. Feel free to make your own resources (and sell them on Help Me Teach
!) but don't be scared to make use of quick reinforcement. YouTube
has a wealth of clips which are free and easy and, as long as you have vetted them for suitability, this can reinforce things in a quirky, fun way.
9. Assessment is regular and supports progress - most pupils know what they need to do to improve.
In looking at the first point above, don't forget to have a simple question in your head: 'Can I prove that my lesson is being understood?' Assessment should not only be at the end! As a simple idea, get students to draw a picture around their hand and write answers on their fingers or palm. You can quickly see who has and hasn't filled their fingers!
We hope this was of help to you in constructing your next lesson. If you have any more tips, please share them in the Comments section below - we'd love to hear what works for you!