Techniques for observation in the classroom

For many teachers, having their lessons observed is a daunting prospect. However, observation can be a crucial part of improving the quality of teaching and learning in vocational education. Chichester College in the UK redesigned its observation system to embed a culture of coaching, which has greatly enhanced lessons according to both teachers and students. 

Read more about the programme that has been recognised nationally and was awarded the City and Guilds Beacon Award for Professional Development and the Times Educational Supplement Best Teaching and Learning Initiative Award. 

Chichester College felt that their old observation process was ineffective. Rather than make small changes, they decided to undertake a large shift and redesign the whole system. The college created five modules which all observers were required to complete. The completion of all modules was necessary for teachers to gain what the college called ‘a licence to observe’. 


  • Changing culture: an introduction to the observation of teaching and learning framework, self-assessment and action planning
  • Observation and teaching: gathering evidence, report writing and moderation
  • Making key judgement: providing feedback based on collected evidence
  • Feedback using a coaching model: developing oral feedback skills; providing support for teaching that requires improvement or is inadequate
  • Setting targets and action planning. 

We now have clearly defined guidelines and understanding of the full process from initial notification to final debrief and grading. - Micky Rendell, Head of Sport and Public Services

The five modules were delivered as part of the implementation of a ‘coaching culture’ throughout the college, with staff at all levels encouraged to provide feedback on the new processes. The focus on evidence helped inspire confidence among all teachers by removing ambiguity associated with arbitrary or impressionistic judgements. 

Students on the executive board also completed the training and were invited to observe lessons; this improved student participation and acted as a powerful learning experience. Following the project 95 per cent of learners felt that teaching was good or better; up from 86 per cent at the start. 

The programme has been recognised nationally. It was awarded the City and Guilds Beacon Award for Professional Development and the Times Educational Supplement Best Teaching and Learning Initiative Award.  Ofsted, the UK’s educational regulatory body, also recognised the work, stating that school had a ‘lesson observation system that is mature and highly effective.’

Teachers also felt that the new system had improved trust and reduced anxiety around observation. A teacher working in hair and beauty said: 'We now find that lesson observation is a shared experience we take something away from. Observers are friendlier and take time to discuss and listen to our thoughts and feelings about the lesson they have seen… We find it is a much more relaxed experience and no longer something to be anxious about.'

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