4.5: Improving your teaching – lesson observations

Time allocation

60 minutes


  • Use this time to plan and carry out observations of your colleagues or be observed yourself. 
  • Record what you plan to do yourself in your practice as a result. 
  • In your mentor session 4.6, you will have a chance to reflect on what you learn from observing other colleagues or being observed yourself.
  • You might choose to observe or be observed on one of the foci below or on a range of the foci.
  • Use the suggested observation ideas below to plan your observations. You don’t need to do all of them but choose the one(s) which you feel will be most helpful – your mentor can help you plan this. 
  • You can use the adaptable observation handout (PDF) to make notes on the observation. 
  • You could use video to carry out your observations. Videoing your lessons gives you the opportunity to review what is happening in your classroom and see for yourself which strategies are most effective. You can share the video with your mentor.

The intended outcomes of this activity are for you to:

Learn that
3.2 Secure subject knowledge helps teachers to motivate pupils and teach effectively.
3.3 Ensuring pupils master foundational concepts and knowledge before moving on is likely to build pupils’ confidence and help them succeed.
3.4 Anticipating common misconceptions within particular subjects is also an important aspect of curricular knowledge; working closely with colleagues to develop an understanding of likely misconceptions is valuable.
3.5 Explicitly teaching pupils the knowledge and skills they need to succeed within particular subject areas is beneficial.
3.10 Every teacher can improve pupils’ literacy, including by explicitly teaching reading, writing and oral language skills specific to individual disciplines.
Learn how to
Deliver a carefully sequenced and coherent curriculum, by:
3c Working with experienced colleagues to accumulate and refine a collection of powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations and demonstrations
3d Using resources and materials aligned with the school curriculum (e.g. textbooks or shared resources designed by experienced colleagues that carefully sequence content)
3e Being aware of common misconceptions and discussing with experienced colleagues how to help pupils master important concepts

Ideas for observations in advance of Mentor Session 4.6

Observation focus Possible focus during the observation
Explicit teaching
  • Record how much time is spent on explicit teaching in the lesson. 
  • Which of the following techniques does the teacher use during explicit teaching?
    • Examples – what were they?
    • Explanations – was this all teacher exposition or did the teacher use the pupils to develop explanations?
    • Modelling – what did the teacher model? Were these prepared in advance or in response to something which happened?
    • Other.
  • What was the impact on pupil learning from explicit teaching?
Supporting pupils to secure knowledge
  • Did the teacher move from foundational knowledge to more difficult concepts? 
  • How did they assess whether pupils had secured the foundational knowledge?
  • Did all pupils secure the foundational knowledge at the same rate? If not, how did the teacher deal with this?
Literacy observation
  • How did the teacher deal with tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary?
  • How did the teacher introduce new vocabulary?
  • Did the teacher do anything specific to address literacy issues in the class?
Motivating pupils
  • How did the teacher motivate pupils using their subject knowledge? 
  • How did the teacher connect and build on prior knowledge?
  • How did the level of the work motivate pupils?
  • Did pupils experience success in the lesson? How was this acknowledged?
Addressing misconceptions
  • What misconceptions did the teacher anticipate? 
  • How did they deal with them? 
  • Were there any misconceptions identified during the lesson which weren’t anticipated? 
  • How were these dealt with?
  • Is it clear how this lesson fits into a bigger sequence of learning?
  • How is this made clear to the pupils during the lesson?
  • How does the teacher link the content of this lesson to the big picture of this particular scheme of work?
  • How does the teacher link the content of this lesson to last lesson? What about to their future lessons?

In your notepad

Mentor session: 3

Focus: Plan to interview a colleague about pupil misconceptions.

Who was observed? Who did you speak to?

What happened?

Mentor session: 4

Focus: Observe or speak to a variety of colleagues to collect analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations and demonstrations. The colleague should be from the same subject area/phase (Use Handout 4.4.).

Who was observed? Who did you speak to?

What happened?

Mentor session: 6

Focus: Carry out one or more of the observations suggested above. Keep a record of the observation in the adaptable observation handout.

Who was observed? Who did you speak to?

What happened?

  • What have you learned from these observations?
  • What ideas will you carry on using or try out in your practice?