Ofsted Info

Posting as part of specialism in Differentiation.  Key implications for classroom teaching and learning and bold and red (my highlighting).

Ofsted SEN review

Extract from Guidance to Inspectors from January 2012 document (again, my highlighting):

Quality of teaching in the school

  1. When evaluating the quality of teaching in the school, inspectors consider:
  •  the extent to which teachers’ expectations, reflected in their teaching and planning, including curriculum planning, are sufficiently high to extend the previous knowledge, skills and understanding of all pupils in a range of lessons and activities over time
  •  how well teaching enables pupils to develop skills in reading, writing, communication and mathematics
  •  the extent to which well judged teaching strategies, including setting challenging tasks matched to pupils’ learning needs, successfully engage all pupils in their learning
  •  the extent to which teachers secure high quality learning by setting challenging tasks that are matched to pupils’ specific learning needs
  •  how well pupils understand how to improve their learning as a result of frequent, detailed and accurate feedback from teachers following assessment of their learning 
  •  the extent to which teachers’ questioning and use of discussion promote learning
  •  the extent to which the pace and depth of learning are maximised as a result of teachers’ monitoring of learning during lessons and any consequent actions in response to pupils’ feedback
  •  the extent to which teachers enthuse, engage and motivate pupils to learn and foster their curiosity and enthusiasm for learning
  • how well teachers use their expertise, including their subject knowledge, to develop pupils’ knowledge, skills and understanding across a range of subjects and areas of learning
  •  the extent to which teachers enable pupils to develop the skills to learn for themselves, where appropriate, including setting appropriate homework to develop their understanding.

The most important role of teaching is to raise pupils’ achievement. Therefore, inspectors consider the planning and implementation of learning activities across the whole of the school’s curriculum, together with marking, assessment and feedback. Inspectors also evaluate activities both within and outside the classroom, such as support and intervention strategies, and the impact that teaching has in promoting the pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

Lesson Challenge – 2

Marketplace, Teachers Toolkit page 122.

Students work in groups of three.

Five stages:

1) Show learning obectives for task

2) Each group prepares a summary poster containing max of 10 words from a text based resource.  Each group covering one sub-topic. 

3) One student stays behind to pass on information…can only answer questions asked by researchers.  Other two students go around to collect info.

4) regroup and share information

5) Test

Differentiationto allow appropriate challenge:

 – One student ASD, will be given full content and asked to write the questions for the test (I will prepare some as well).

– Most able groups will be given more complex text to interpret and present.

Lesson Challenge – day 1

My focus is on challenging students appropriately, and this requires differentiation.  I am currently working on building a “Teachers Toolkit” of tasks with suggestions for how to differentiate.  I am trying out various different activities in lessons, and will be posting here on how it goes, with videos and photos where appropriate.

First method, Discussion Carousel.  The focus here was on challenging all students to use keywords.   Students in two concentric circles, discussing a topic, moving on round the circle every minute or so.  Decided to use in middle ability Year 11 class nearing the end of a topic (Enzymes).  The topic includes lots of new words and concepts, which the students have to describe and explain in detail.  They have understood the general principles well, but are not explaining using the correct terminology. So the challenge will be for the students to use keywords correctly in their discussion.  In order to support the students, I will run the activity following the speed questions format, so the inner ring of students will have cards with open ended questions, with keyword prompts on. In order to assesss progress, I will set some exam style questions that require detailed explanation as homework to assess if keyword use has improved.  I will also give the students a mini questionaire to see if they felt challenged, and whether they think they have made progress.  In order to differentiate the activity, I gave the most challenging questions to the four most able students, so that they could support the other students appropriately.  I also designated one of the students as”Official Observer”. Her task was to walk around and look for signs of challenge with me. 




My student observer and I agreed on the following points:

Students appeared to find the task quite challenging.  They were taking time to formulate answers, and using “ummm” fairly often.  Lots of hand signals/gestures were spotted to reinforce explanations.  We decided looking down to the ground or upwards (searching for answers) was a common sign of students trying to answer the questions.  This was reflected in the students own reposnses to the questionaire.  The average level of challenge given for the task was 4 on a scale of 1-5. 

What did the students learn?    What is the evidence for this?

1) Students increased their use of keywords.  I could hear this as I walked around listening to conversations.  Furthermore, in response to the question “How would you rate your ability (1-5) to use keywords before and after the activity?” only three students did not give themselves a higher score for after the activity.

2) Students became more confident in using the keywords.   The questions contained some overlap, allowing students to improve their explanations.  They were clearly becoming more familiar with the keywords as they progressed around the circle.  In addition, 90% of students reported they felt more confident in using the keywords after the activity. 

(Homework not collected yet).


1) All students engaged in the activity

2) Pace (as defined by learning/thinking events per unit time) high

3) Peer support

4) Students learn by verbalising answers as well as listening and correcting misconceptions

5) Good for kinaesthetic and auditory learners. 

6) Encourages independent learning.


1) Quite difficult to differentiate

2) Took 5 minutes to set up the activity, and 1 or two minutes swap over time in the middle.

Assessment & Feedback

The OTP course challenged and in places, changed quite dramatically some of our prior attitudes and beliefs about what effective teaching and learning looks like.  The importance of other beliefs or favourite practices of ours were reinforced and improved.

Most of all, the programme reinvigorated my aim to see learning through the eyes of my students and to further understand my students’ understanding.  This resurfaces the familiar quests of ‘getting inside the black box’ and ‘assessing for learning’ that feature on so many initial teacher training schemes.  Hardly novel concepts, yet ones that many of us find challenging to achieve.

Research findings

John Hattie, Professor of Education at Auckland University has synthesised the results of over 500,000 studies of the effects of influences on student achievement.  Findings suggest that almost all things we do in the name of education have a positive effect on achievement but only some practices have a marked and meaningful effect on student learning – not just a positive (greater than zero) effect.

A key finding from this research is that the most powerful single influence enhancing achievement is feedback (see table 1). What is needed is quality feedback and where that feedback has the greatest effect is when teachers receive more and better feedback about what the students have learned.

Table 1:  The top five innovations that are above the typical effect (Hattie)


Effect Size

Source of Influence


Students’ prior cognitive ability


Instructional quality


Direct instruction






The Important Message

So, the starting point for my work on assessment and feedback at Chosen Hill is that most teaching innovations have some positive effect of student achievement but most influences merely impact on the probability of the presence of feedback and challenging goals:  achievement is enhanced as a function of feedback.  For us to become expert rather than just experienced teachers, one of the things we can do is to improve the frequency and quality of feedback given to the students in our classrooms.

Looking forward

My focus is now on exploring the questions below with a cross curricular, entirely non-judgemental perspective.

  • What kind of feedback should be taking place in our classrooms?
  • How could we obtain more feedback from students?
  • How can we improve the quality of feedback?
  • How can we ensure we act on this feedback to raise achievement?

Learning strategies for Visible Learning

Research suggests that 4 large learning strategies hold the key to Independent (Visible) Learning:

Multiple ways of knowing: The major message is that multiple ways of presenting material needs to be provided close to each other with minimum distracting material. We can only process so much at a time, but we need multiple ways of seeing new ideas without overloading our working memory.

  • Ideas that need to be associated should be presented near to each other in space, and time
  • Materials and Multimedia should explicitly link related ideas and minimise distracting irrelevant material
  • The information presented to the learners should not overload working memory

Multiple ways of interacting – we learn best by interacting with the ideas, by deliberately rephrasing the ideas, and by finding ‘ coat hangers’ to hang to link previous notions (or examples) – particularly when there is tension between what we know and what we are encountering. We need to be taught explicitly how to process such learning.

  • Outlining, integrating and synthesizing information produces better learning than rereading materials or other passive strategies
  • Stories and example cases tend to be remembered better than facts and abstract principles
  • Deep reasoning and learning is stimulated by problems that create obstacles to the goals, such as contradictions, conflicts and anomalies – and students need to be told that this is a normal part of learning

Multiple opportunities for practising – most of us, struggling or gifted, need multiple opportunities to learn new ideas, preferably over time, and we need to see the purpose of deliberately practising

  • An understanding of an abstract concept improves with multiple and varied examples.
  • Spaced schedules of studying produce better long – term retention than a single session.
  • To maintain engaged and sustained learning, there is a need to see value and purpose in the practice, and a need to develop a growing sense of confidence when facing challenges in this learning.

Knowing what we are learning – when we learn, we can make many errors, go in the wrong direction, learn wrong information, and meet many challenges – and thus we are often dependent on ‘just in time, just for me’ feedback to ensure that we move efficiently and effectively towards the success criteria.

  • Making errors is often a necessity for learning to occur; students need safe environments in which they can go beyond their comfort levels, make and learn from errors, and know when they have erred.
  • Learning the wrong material can be reduced when feedback is immediate.
  • Challenges help to make learning easier and thereby have positive effects on long-term retention.