Teacher Observation

The Teacher Observation intervention trained teachers in a structured observation approach. Teachers used software to rate their colleagues across a range of pre-specified components, such as managing student behaviour and communicating with students. Teachers were instructed to conduct a minimum of either three or four observations per year.


Key Stage 4

Key stage


Cross curriculum


EEF Summary

Teacher observation is an integral part of CPD in English schools. A recent US study found that structured lesson observation led to gains in student and teacher performance. The EEF funded this evaluation to explore the impact of structured teacher observation in the English context.

The evaluation did not show any overall improvement in combined maths and English GCSE scores for pupils of the teachers involved.

The total number of teacher observations was much lower than expected: teachers involved in the trial reported that they felt uncomfortable taking time out of teaching to complete observations, and that the level of expected observations was unsustainable. However, even when observations did take place, there was no evidence that schools which did more observations had better pupil results.

It is important to note that many of the comparison schools reported that they were already doing peer observation of some sort. This evaluation does not mean that general peer observation has no impact, but rather that this structured observation programme was not found to have any benefits over the status quo. 

Research Results

Combined GCSE maths & English

Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Combined GCSE maths & English (FSM eligible pupils)

Months' Progress


Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

54 of the 82 trial schools were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. 

Around 40% of pupils had ever been eligible for free school meals. 

Could I implement this in my school?

The project was designed and delivered by University of Bristol and is not currently commercially available. The RANDA Tower software is available from RANDA solutions.

Teachers were required to attend training on how to use the software, and needed free time to observe other teachers' lessons (on average teachers did 5 observations per year). 



Delivered by


Whole School

Participant group


2 Years

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

Teacher Observation cost each school around £4000 per year, or £3 per pupil per year when averaged over 3 years. Staff time was required for training and lesson observations. Teachers needed computer tablets to use the programme software.



Cost per pupil


Year 10/11 teachers

No. of Teachers/TAs


1 Day

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 4

Start date

January 2013

End date

November 2017

Type of trial

Efficacy Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. The project found no evidence that Teacher Observation improves combined GCSE English and maths scores. 

  2. The project found no evidence of impact of the intervention on the GCSE English and maths attainment of pupils who have ever been eligible for FSM.

  3. The number of observations were below the developer’s initial expectations:teachers had difficulty fitting in the required number of observations because of timetabling and arranging cover, and some experienced problems using the software.

  4. Teacher engagement with the programme varied greatly across schools, and practice ranged from individuals simply recording some observations using the RANDA software to whole-school, collaborative planning, discussion and reflection as part of an integrated CPD programme.

  5. Almost three-quarters of the control group schools were already doing some peer observation prior to the intervention. The lack of impact seen in this study may be because the structured Teacher Observation intervention was no more effective than existing practice rather than because general peer observation has no impact. 

  1. Updated: 5th January, 2018

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-teacher-observation.pdf

  2. Updated: 9th November, 2017

    Evaluation Report

    2 MB pdf - Teacher_Observation.pdf

  3. Updated: 8th February, 2016

    Project Protocol

    330 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_TeacherObservationInterventionOriginal.pdf

  4. Updated: 8th February, 2016

    Amended Project Protocol

    335 KB pdf - EEF_Project_Protocol_TeacherObservationInterventionUpdated.pdf

  5. Updated: 5th January, 2017

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    317 KB pdf - Round_5-_Teacher_Observation_SAP.pdf

Full project description

The Teacher Observation intervention aimed to improve teacher effectiveness through structured peer observation. Teachers observe and are observed by their peers a number of times over the course of two years. It was delivered by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol. CMPO researchers trained lead teachers from both maths and English departments in participating secondary schools to use RANDA TOWER software (RANDA, 2012), and lead teachers then trained colleagues in their schools. Teachers used the software on a tablet computer to keep a record of classroom observations and to review and collate the data afterwards. Intervention schools were requested to involve all maths and English teachers in a series of 20 minute, structured peer observations over a two-year period.

This study was an efficacy trial of the Teacher Observation intervention in 82 secondary schools with high proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM). It was a school-randomised controlled trial designed to determine the impact of the whole-school intervention on the attainment of pupils in English and maths. The primary outcome was the combined English and maths GCSE scores of Year 10 pupils in participating schools in 2014/15, who had two years of exposure to the intervention.

The trial was also designed to explore the effect of varying the number of observations undertaken by teachers (‘dosage’) and explore how the effect varied depending on whether the teacher was observing his or her peers or being observed or both. Teachers in the low dosage group were asked to complete a minimum of three observations (though the suggested number was six), while teachers in the high dosage group were asked to complete a minimum of four (with a suggested number of 12). A process evaluation used case study visits, an online survey and a pro forma to provide data on implementation and to capture the perceptions and experiences of participating teachers. The intervention was implemented in schools during the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 academic years.