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.
Test the impact of structured, peer observation on teachers’ effectiveness.
Staff deployment & development
Organising your school
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.
The project found no evidence that Teacher Observation improves combined GCSE English and maths scores.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.