5.5: Improving your teaching: lesson observations

Time allocation

70 minutes


  • Use this time to plan and carry out some observations of colleagues or be observed yourself. Record what you plan to do yourself in your practice as a result. 
  • In your mentor session 5.6, 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) that 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
4.6 Questioning is an essential tool for teachers; questions can be used for many purposes, including to check pupils’ prior knowledge, assess understanding and break down problems.
4.7 High quality classroom talk can support pupils to articulate key ideas, consolidate understanding and extend their vocabulary.
6.1 Effective assessment is critical to teaching because it provides teachers with information about pupils’ understanding and needs.
6.2 Good assessment helps teachers avoid being over-influenced by potentially misleading factors, such as how busy pupils appear.
6.5 High-quality feedback can be written or verbal; it is likely to be accurate and clear, encourage further effort, and provide specific guidance on how to improve.
Learn how to
Stimulate pupil thinking and check for understanding, by:
4m Including a range of types of questions in class discussions to extend and challenge pupils (e.g. by modelling new vocabulary or asking pupils to justify answers).
4n Providing appropriate wait time between question and response where more developed responses are required.
Check prior knowledge and understanding during lessons, by:
6d Using assessments to check for prior knowledge and pre-existing misconceptions.
6e Structuring tasks and questions to enable the identification of knowledge gaps and misconceptions (e.g. by using common misconceptions within multiple-choice questions).
6f Prompting pupils to elaborate when responding to questioning to check that a correct answer stems from secure understanding.
6g Monitoring pupil work during lessons, including checking for misconceptions.

Ideas for observations in advance of Mentor Session 5.6:

Observation focus Possible focus during the observation
Use of assessment to expose misconceptions
  • How does the teacher use assessment strategies, such as hinge or multiple-choice questions, to expose misconceptions?
  • What does the teacher do after they assess whether there is or is not a misconception?
  • What benefits does this bring to the pupils?
  • What might you do as a result of this?
Monitoring pupils’ work during lessons
  • What does the teacher do to monitor pupils’ work during the lesson?
  • Does the teacher use verbal or written feedback or both?
  • How do pupils respond?
  • What is the impact of the teacher monitoring during lessons?
  • What might you do as a result of this?
Using a range of questions and the use of wait time
  • What different kinds of questions does the teacher use in the lesson, e.g. open, closed, hinge/multiple-choice, follow-on etc.?
  • When do different kinds of questions get deployed?
  • How involved are the pupils in answering?
  • Does the teacher do anything to structure the answering of the question, e.g. using paired discussion before responding?
  • How long does the teacher typically wait between asking the question and the answer?
  • Could the teacher wait longer in any instances?
  • What might you do as a result of this?
High-quality classroom talk
  • What does the teacher do in the lesson to promote talk that is of high quality, e.g. the use of sentence stems, word banks, paired discussion?
  • What is the purpose of the classroom talk?
  • How do the talk activities support pupil understanding?
  • What might you do as a result of this?
Prompting pupils to elaborate on their responses
  • Does the teacher prompt pupils to extend their responses if they are insufficiently detailed?
  • How is this done?
  • What is the effect?
  • Does the teacher do anything in advance of asking the question to ensure pupils do elaborate on responses without prompts?
  • What might you do as a result of this?

In your notepad

Focus of observation Who was observed? What happened?
Use of assessment to expose misconceptions
Monitoring pupils’ work during lessons
Using a range of questions and the use of wait time
High-quality classroom talk
Prompting pupils to elaborate on their responses

What have you learned from these lesson observations?

What ideas will you carry on using or try out in your practice?