Observation of Teaching and Learning Policy


Policy Review

This policy will be reviewed in full annually   

The policy was last reviewed and agreed by Terry Patterson, Quality Manager on the 2nd September 2022.

It is due for review August 2023

This document seeks to set out the arrangements for the observation of teaching, learning and assessment. It should be seen in conjunction with other key documents:

  • OTL forms
  • OTL grading grid

The primary purpose of lesson observation is to improve the quality of teaching, learning and assessment across the Academy. The lesson observation arrangements are as follows:

  • Lesson observations will be graded in line with Ofsted criteria.. Tutors who are identified as having many areas to develop will have more frequent developmental lesson observations.
  • The post observation meeting is focused on constructive developmental dialogue
  • Development plans are actioned with time bound targets
  • Greater focus on follow-up support

The Academy aims to ensure that lesson observation contributes to the creation, and forms part, of a culture of reflection and continuing commitment to professional development by:

  • Developing our sharing of good practice and of what constitutes outstanding teaching, learning and assessment
  • Supporting and developing tutors in becoming reflective practitioners with high expectations for what learners can achieve

Lesson observation findings, together with other key performance indicators such as outcome data (success rates, value-added) and student voice will inform appraisals of teaching staff and managers.

Roles and responsibilities

The Quality Manager is responsible for ensuring that there are comprehensive, appropriate and robust processes for lesson observation activity, recording of findings and monitoring of impact.

A team of observers have been appointed to conduct lesson observations across the Academy and also in partnership with its prime funders and other organisations under the Free2Learn organisation. The team is managed by the Quality Manager who liaises with managers to schedule the lesson observation activity carried out by the team and is responsible for team development and standardisation activities. The Quality Manager is responsible for ensuring that a central record of lesson observations is maintained and for the production of reports.

The Quality Manager is responsible for ensuring that all tutors are informed about the Academy lesson observation process as outlined in this document. Managers have responsibility for the performance management of their staff and are actively engaged in development planning and assessing of impact. Managers will use the findings from lesson observations together with other performance indicators such as outcome data and learner voice to conduct formal staff reviews.

Types of lesson observations

Lesson observation activity is comprised of:

  • Formal lesson observations
  • Developmental observations
  • Peer lesson observations
  • Learning walks

Formal lesson observations

All tutors will be subject to at least one formal lesson observation a year. This observation will be carried out by the Quality Manager. The effectiveness of the lesson will be recorded on the observation sheet, together with a grade for the lesson and a detailed commentary.

All new members of the teaching staff will be offered supported teaching and learning observations within six weeks of their employment, irrespective of whether they are already professionally qualified and/or experienced tutors. The objective of the observations is to support them in reflective practices, identify www [what went well] and ebi [even better if], and action plan where necessary. In the case of unqualified tutors, these observations will be in addition to any carried out as part of initial tutor training.  Formal observations can also be requested at any time by any member of staff.

Developmental observations

Developmental observations are used to improve teaching and learning.  The purpose of these sessions is to assess progress with the areas of development identified  – these observations could be based on a theme (for example, looking at how we deliver employability) or in response to a particular need.  Developmental observations are usually planned with the tutor as part of an action plan following a formal observation, but do not have to be. They are not graded and feedback will normally be written as ‘www’ ‘what went well’ and ‘ebi’ ‘even better if’.  The duration of developmental observations will vary; some will be brief at around 10 minutes, others longer and may on occasion extend to a similar length to formal observations.

Peer-to-peer observations

Peer observations provide tutors with valuable opportunities to reflect on practice observed within and outside their immediate teaching team. The aim is to support development by providing opportunities for tutors to:

  • experience different styles of teaching and evaluate impact on learning
  • learn from each other’s practices
  • provide a stimulus for discussions of teaching and learning with colleagues from within or outside own subject specialism
  • receive unbiased and non-judgemental feedback on teaching and learning

The aim is to encourage and facilitate interactions between teaching staff that promote sharing of good practice and support team and individual development. Directed peer observation may be agreed as part of an individual’s development plan following a formal observation.

The Academy recognises the benefits that peer-to-peer observations can bring and the importance of introducing this practice into the work and culture of all individuals and teams.

Learning Walks

Learning walks consist of a series of drop-in observations over the period of a day or part day. Normally this will be an agreed activity between the Head of Teaching and Learning and members of the observation team.  Each learning walk is planned and led by the Quality Manager who will:

  • Notify the staff of the date for the learning walk, normally providing a week’s notice
  • Plan the activity for the learning walk

Learning walks will normally include drop-in observations of teaching and learning, and may also include visits to workshops, staff workrooms and other resource areas. Drop-in observations will tend to be around 20 minutes and will not necessarily include the start of sessions. There is no requirement for formal lesson plans or schemes of work to be provided to observers unless specifically requested by the manager with a minimum of one week’s notice. Opportunities will be taken to talk to students and staff where this can be done without any disruption to teaching and learning.

Each learning walk ends with an observer team feedback discussion. The team’s discussions are summarised by the manager and key points shared with the teaching team either as a brief written summary report or verbally at a team meeting. Feedback shared with the teaching team will be pitched at team level without identification of individual tutors.  Managers may provide individual feedback but this should not be a normal expectation.

Learning walks serve an important purpose by:

  • Providing opportunity for the Academy to sample the staff and student experience first-hand; engage with students to ask key questions regarding their Academy experience
  • Enabling particular themes to be explored e.g. promotion of independent learning and equality and diversity; embedding English and Maths
  • Providing opportunity for good/outstanding practice to be recognised and to note any issues for further consideration
  • Helping to set the context for improvement planning
  • Evaluating the impact of development plans

Appendix 1

Procedure to be followed for formal observations


Managers have responsibility for ensuring that all tutors are briefed on the observation process and paperwork prior to observations taking place, for example through team meetings at the start of the academic year or as part of the induction process.

Observers will notify tutors by email of the lesson to be observed one week in advance of the observation. Observers will send the following documents as an attachment to the notification email:

Lesson observation briefing

A brief summary of the lesson observation process

Observation template

Grading criteria

There is no negotiation of the lesson to be observed unless there are exceptional circumstances. In cases where observations are not able to go ahead as planned an alternative observation will be scheduled as soon as possible. Where the reason for postponement is outside the control of the tutor, for example lack of observer availability on the day, the normal notice period will be upheld unless agreed otherwise by the tutor.  In other cases, for example where a timetable change has not been communicated in advance, the normal notice period may be waived in the interests of completing the observations in the agreed timescale.

Observers will include the date/time of the post observation meeting in the email sent to tutors informing them of the lesson observation. This will be scheduled to take place within one week of the observation. Tutors have responsibility for raising any difficulties with feedback meeting dates/times on receipt of email as later requests for postponement can be impossible to accommodate within the agreed timescale.

The lesson observation

Observations will begin at the start of the lesson, or after a break in a longer workshop session and last 50 minutes to one hour. The observer will aim to sit where they have a good view of the students and how they are engaging with the lesson. Observers will write extensive notes during the observation to capture ‘the story’ of the lesson. They will also draw a seating plan and use this to record individual student engagement including how many times individuals answer or ask questions and/or their participation in group work.

Opportunities will be taken to talk to students without disrupting the lesson. These are the types of questions that may be asked:

  • What do you know now that you didn’t know this morning?
  • Can you explain what you have been asked to do?
  • How does this lesson relate to what you were studying last lesson?
  • How often are you set homework to do outside class and how much are you given?
  • What type of feedback are you given (verbal, written) and how helpful is it in explaining what you are doing well and how to improve?
  • How well are you are progressing in this subject and how do you know?

Observers will move around where this is possible without causing disruption to enable them to assess students’ engagement and learning progress. Opportunities will be taken to look at students’ work and tutor feedback on marked work.


Between observation and post-observation meeting, observers and tutors evaluate the session with reference to the Grading Grid using the Academy forms in preparation for the post observation meeting.

Observer’s Assessment of Teaching and Learning Recording Documents

Front page:  Details of the lesson observed are recorded.   Notes made by the observer and suggestions are identified. Student feedback gained during the lesson is also summarised.

Next section: Strengths and Areas for Improvement are summarised as bullet points

Next section: Learner impact profile summarises the quality of planning, learning and progress, assessment for learning, development of English and mathematics, embedding and promoting of equality and diversity; development of learner independence of learning,

Formal feedback

Observers will support tutors to identify key strengths and priorities for improvement in the lesson observed. All tutors will have formal feedback identifying strengths and areas for development as a result of the observation which identifies actions to address for the next observation. This feedback is sent to line managers and forms the basis of annual appraisal reviews along with other criteria as determined by BAJ.

Feedback is agreed by both observer and tutor to confirm that the post observation meeting has taken place. Tutors are able to use the form to comment on the observation process.

Post-observation development

Observers will make an assessment of tutors’ development needs on the basis of the lesson observed and the post observation discussion.

  • Sharing good practice – here the tutor will seek to improve teaching and learning through leading workshops and allowing others to peer observe. [Grade 1].  They will manage their own development through seeking and accessing developmental opportunities either at the Academy or externally.
  • Supported development [Grade 2] here tutors will be invited to drop in sessions to help develop their practice
  • Supported development can be, but is not limited to:
    • Directed attendance at a particular professional development workshop.
    • Directed peer observations
  • Intensive development [Grade 3/4] here tutors will be requested to work with the professional development team and a detailed plan will be drawn up and agreed with their line manager. A second observation will take place after a five week support programme.


Formal Lesson Observations Records

The following completed forms are saved with restricted access:

  • Observer’s assessment of Teaching and Learning;

A central record will be maintained by Quality which summarises for each individual:

  • Strengths and areas for development
  • Summary judgements and development pathway

The purpose of the central record is twofold:

  • To enable analysis of strengths and areas for development
  • To track progress



All individual lesson observation records are treated as confidential and will be handled appropriately and professionally.

The lesson observation forms will only be made available to:

  • The tutor
  • The observation team


Professional Development

The lesson observation documentation and any improvements made following the development plan should be included in any review meeting (probationary / appraisal)

 Appendix 2

Assuring the quality of judgements

The following approaches will be used to assure the quality and consistency of judgements about teaching, learning and attainment and how these are used to inform development planning. They encompass the need to:

  • Develop our Academy-wide shared understanding of what constitutes good and outstanding teaching, learning and assessment
  • Support tutors in becoming more reflective practitioners with high expectations of what learners can achieve
  • Monitoring the quality of teaching, learning and assessment across areas of provision; identifying areas of good practice and aspects where improvement is needed
  • Create a culture of reflective practice amongst observers, which emphasises rigorous self-evaluation, sharing of practice and focus on personal professional development
  • Ensure on-going dialogue between observers about teaching and learning practice, and the process of making judgements about them
  • Moderate the judgements of observers


Training of observers

All staff involved in the formal observation of lessons will be trained to ensure professional standards and consistency. As well as the initial training of all observers, there will be on-going training, linked to the identification and understanding of standards related to teaching and learning and the way in which observation evidence should be judged against those standards. Training will also focus on developing observers’ skills in providing developmental feedback and supporting effective improvement planning.

Training for tutors

Development days and other opportunities will be used to ensure that teaching staff are supported in their self-assessment of teaching and learning.

Paired observations

Paired observations are a vital element in supporting development of observers’ skills and in standardising judgements. All observers will undertake at least one paired observation with a colleague observer during the course of an academic year. The observers will discuss and agree their judgements before the post-observation meeting with the tutor.  All observers will also undertake one lesson observation accompanied by a moderator e.g. the Quality Manager or external expert, who will discuss the judgements made by the observer, and agree any actions for development, which will be documented.  Paired observations will be agreed between both observer parties in advance; tutors will be notified of the possibility of a paired observation taking place when the lesson observation date/time is confirmed.

Standardisation meetings

Standardisation meetings will take place during the academic year where nominated observers will come together to share their observation documentation, and discuss issues relating to judgements about teaching and learning. The meetings will be facilitated by the Quality Manager. Attendance at these meetings is mandatory for all observers.

 Sampling of documentation

Lesson observation reports will be sampled at least once a year, leading to written feedback, including recommendations for development. Where there appear to be serious issues arising from the documentation, a meeting will be called with the observer to discuss the issues, and agree any actions for development. Information gathered from the tutor’s feedback on the process (within Observation of Teaching and Learning Development Plan) will also be used.

Annual review of documentation

There will be an annual review of completed lesson observation documentation, leading to a report encompassing good practice, and areas for development. The outcomes should inform observers’ own developing practice, but also plans for training and development sessions and other developmental activities for groups of observers.

Appendix 3:

How to raise concerns about the lesson observation process

Observers should raise any urgent concerns they may have relating to teaching and learning or engagement of the tutor in the observation process to the relevant line manager.

Tutors who have a concern about how the observation process was conducted and wish to raise this formally should do this through the Quality Manager.  Any concerns must be made by the tutor in writing within a week of the post observation meeting taking place.

Observation Flowchart

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