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Good to outstanding

Some discussion in the department recently on the question of what constitutes an "outstanding" lesson - OFSTED's adjective, not mine. Funny how we take on board an imposed term and assume it makes sense. It's all part of a national drive to increas the number of really good lessons. Maybe "really good" would be a better term - firstly because, by definition, an "outstanding" lesson should be a fairly rare one (am I being pedantic there?); secondly it is actually not that easy to define what a "really good" lesson is.

When we talked about this we came up with a number of features which might (I stress might) be part of a really good lesson. Interested? Well, here they are:
  • Enjoyment (not necessarily fun)
  • Large amounts of target language
  • Progress being made according to the ability of each pupil, which implies...
  • Differentiation
  • Participation of many
  • A cultural element
  • Variety of tasks
  • Pace
  • Challenge
  • Pupils recognising their own progress
  • A collective feeling of support for each other and from the teacher
  • Appropriate homework where relevant
I may have forgotten something, but that is pretty much what we came up with. We felt it was hard to define an "outstanding" lesson, but that we might recognise it when we saw it. There is also an element of subjectivity involved because we may have different views on how a second language is best learned.

We wondered whether the following could be called "outstanding":
  • A lesson spent translating sentences
  • Doing a dictation
  • Watching a foreign language film
  • Spending a lesson in the ICT room doing an interactive listening task with almost no teacher input
My guess is that we would not plan any of those lessons for an inspector even though they are all perfectly valid lessons which would further the progress of a student.

One problem with any generic set of descriptors for a good lesson is that they do not take account of individual subject needs. In a language lesson, notably the need for plenty of target language input.

Anyway, I reckon we should keep teaching lots of good lessons and hope that some of them are "really good". That would be a decent average in a job where we have too many lessons and too many pupils in each classroom.


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