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Lesson observation
Topic & Lesson Planning and Evaluation
Lesson Planning
Topic planning

Lesson Observation

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Observing an experienced practitioner is one of the most important strategies for learning any complex activity and can be very useful to students, particularly at the start of the programme.  However learning through observation is not as easy as it seems; to be effective it must be carefully planned and must be followed up by discussion with your mentor or tutor and, where appropriate, with pupils.

One of the difficulties is in knowing what to observe.  Teaching can be such a complex activity that the naive observer can see teaching as straightforward or alternatively be overwhelmed by its complexity.  A clear focus is therefore essential and the first part of the programme will give you experience of this.  You might decide to focus on how the teacher:

¿     makes explicit the purpose of the lesson and the links with previous work

¿     motivates pupils

¿     uses a range of teaching styles or activities

¿     uses different types of questions

¿     develops language

¿     differentiates activities or support for different pupils.

Key questions on starting a lesson might be:

¿     Do pupils line up?  Do pupils enter without the teacher?

¿     How do the pupils enter the room? What was the teacher doing at this time?

¿     Did the teacher talk to pupils as they entered?  What was this talk about?

¿     Do pupils have their own seats?  What rules or rituals appear to be in operation?  (register, bags, jackets, chewing, collection of resources, etc.)

¿     How does the teacher secure attention?

¿     How does the teacher respond to uncooperative pupils and to other distractions?

¿     At what point did the lesson begin?  How do you know? What signals were given?

Key questions on using praise might be:

¿     Is praise given to individuals, groups or the whole class?

¿     Is praise given for academic work or social behaviour?

¿     How many positive and negative comments does the teacher make?

¿     How does a pupil react after a negative comment  ...  a positive comment?

¿     Which words were used to give praise?  Which seemed most effective?

-           Was there a difference between praise and encouragement?

At a later stage in the programme your observations might be on more complex aspects, e.g., how the teacher adapts plans in response to pupils' learning needs or sets up opportunities for self assessment and peer feedback.  There are many other possibilities, and as you reflect on your own development with your Mentor, you will be able to identify the aspects on which you need to focus.  It may also be worthwhile to limit the number of pupils to observe (also to interview them and examine their work) and to observe how different teachers deal with the same aspect of teaching.

It is important that you discuss the focus of your observations with the teachers being observed, both out of politeness and so that they can try to exemplify the aspect of teaching in which you are interested.

The Lesson Observation Record aims to help you to define a clear focus and to provide a record of your observations.  It should be used to record all lesson observations and be available for discussion at mentor meetings or university sessions.

Topic & Lesson Planning and Evaluation

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Ofsted Reports have frequently noted that the lack of explicit lesson and topic planning contribute to poor quality work in the classroom.  This concern is not new; the HMI report "The New Teacher in School" in 1988 cited inadequate planning as a major determinant of "poor" and "very poor" lessons and stated: "The most serious weaknesses were insufficient attention to planning and either lack of clear objectives or objectives that are misconceived, with the result that pupils often saw no progress in what they were being asked to do. (DES, 1988, p2)

In comparison, features of "good" or "excellent" lessons observed were "... first and foremost, thoughtful planning and preparation, in which the choice of content, the use of a range of resources, and a variety of activities and teaching approaches were carefully considered.  (DES, 1988, p22)

Planning is usually thought of as:

¿     Long Term:  over the term, year or Key Stage

¿     Medium Term:  over a topic or module

¿     Short Term:  individual lessons or linked lessons.

Schools will have done their long term planning to fit with NC and other legal requirements; departments will have done medium term planning before you arrive and you will be expected to work within the parameters of the Schemes of Work produced. 

Good planning is a sophisticated activity and you will therefore need to develop it over the year and beyond.  The ability to plan effectively presumes:

¿     good subject knowledge of the topic to be taught

¿     a clear understanding of appropriate styles of classroom work including AfL approaches

¿     an awareness of how strategies for classroom management can be integrated into planning. 

You will be introduced to lesson planning in SD sessions over the first section of the course.  By the start of Practice of Teaching 1 you should be able to make a reasonable attempt at planning at least individual lessons.  By the end of the Induction Phase, with the support of your mentor and other teachers, you should feel confident in planning linked lessons.

In the Consolidation Phase you will review planning with a focus on differentiation and classroom management; you will develop the planning as part of your written assignment; you should go into your Practice of Teaching 2 reasonably confident in topic planning.

The Extension Phase provides an opportunity to review your planning of work over the year, share it with others and consider models of good practice which you can use in first post.

Proformas for Topic and Lesson Planning & Evaluation are provided to help you to structure your planning and these must be used.

Lesson Planning

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The following notes should help to explain how the proforma should be used.


What is the lesson about?


Useful when you need to get plans into order.

Lesson ... of ...

Indicates the place of this lesson within the topic.


The length of time available is essential to planning.


The class, set or group.

No. of pupils

This will also influence your planning.

Teaching Skill Focus

Indicate the particular Teaching Skills that you would like to practice and develop during this lesson.

Aims & Links

Aims are statements about the learning which should take place over a period of time, i.e. what are the overall aims for the topic?  These may come from the school's scheme of work.  They should be linked to NC PoS (using the standard coding format), to GCSE or GCE content or where appropriate to NS Frameworks.  You should not usually expect to achieve these in a single lesson.

Assumed Prior Learning

What knowledge, skills and understanding are you assuming pupils will have starting this lesson?  How will you alter the lesson if your assumptions are unfounded?
For the first lesson of a topic you can find out what pupils have been taught previously but you also need to explore whether pupils still remember key knowledge and concepts; you could use questions or short activities at the beginning of the lesson or in an earlier lesson.  For later lessons APL will be based on your previous evaluations of pupils' learning. 

Learning Objectives

What precisely you expect pupils to learn in this lesson that they did not know before.  Some teachers use the acronym WALT (What we Are Learning Today)
Make sure you objectives are specific for that lesson and that your pupils understand them. As the point is to assess learning, it is unrealistic to give more than 2 or 3 objectives.
Defining objectives which clarify exactly what learning you hope to take place is a crucial skill if you and the pupils are to be clear about what they are meant to do.


Objectives should be specific, realistic & assessable.  Some students find the acronym SMART useful:  Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timed.
The NC terms knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes will be useful to structure your thinking. 


Start your objectives with
By the end of the lesson pupils will ...
-          know that ... (knowledge; factual information, for example names, places, symbols, formulae events);
-          develop/be able to ... (skills; using knowledge, applying techniques, analysing information, etc);
-          understand how/why ... (understanding; concepts, reasons, effects, principles, processes, etc)
-          develop/be aware of ... (attitudes and values; empathy, caring, sensitivity towards social issues, feelings, moral issues, etc).
Appropriate verbs in constructing objectives might include the following:  know, understand, state, describe, list, prioritise, write, construct, explain, think, solve, distinguish, compare, differentiate, enjoy, believe, draw, design, identify, practice, apply, appreciate.
You will need to differentiate your objectives for different groups of pupils.  Some students find it useful to think in terms of
Must:  what all pupils need to achieve
Should:  what the majority should achieve
Could:  what the most capable could achieve

Learning Outcomes                          

You should indicate, for each objective, how you will know it has been achieved, e.g. what will be assessed?  Some teachers use the acronym WILF (What I am Looking For).  You should indicate how pupils will be assessed in the main lesson plan.
It should be usually be possible to explicitly link Learning Objectives to Learning Outcomes. 
After the lesson, as part of your evaluation, you should indicate in the Percentage Achieved column (%) the percentage of pupils you estimate achieved each objectives.

Special Needs

What special needs do you have to cater for?  Are there pupils with statements or on the register of concern?  You should include personal targets from IEPs and indicate EAL, literacy / numeracy, medical conditions and social / behavioural needs.

Key Words

What specific mathematical terms do you want to introduce or revise?


List everything you need in detail, e.g. 30 sheets of A3 2cm squared paper.  Check resources well in advance of the lesson; do not just assume that they will be available.
Indicate the use of ICT where appropriate.  What are back-up plans for equipment failure?
Resources can also mean other staff.  Are TAs or other adults available?


You should estimate and note the time needed for each part of the lesson and check that you are not making unreasonable demands on pupils' concentration.  Record real times, e.g. 9.45 rather than 5 minutes.


The next three sessions should all include teacher activity, pupil activity & AfL.  You need to list questions to be asked and plan board layouts.  The structure should be devised to provide variety and with classroom management in mind.


Indicate how you will use starter activities to create interest, recall previous work, share the learning objectives with pupils, explain the purpose of the activity, demonstrate techniques etc.  List the main points you will introduce and make clear the sequence of work presented.

Main section:  

Outline the development of the lesson and how you will handle transitions.
Indicate how resources, including ICT, will be used.
Describe how pupils' work will be monitored and assessed during the lesson and how this could alter the lesson.

Plenary & Homework

Outline how the lesson will be drawn together and how learning will be summarised, reviewed and assessed.
Detail any homework that will be set.


Indicate how you will differentiate the lesson above for individual needs and capabilities.  Will this be by task, by outcome, by resources, by support?  How will TAs be utilised?

Risk Assessment

Assess any possible risks to pupils in the lesson.  Consult your Mentor if you have any concerns.  Indicate in your plan how and when pupils are alerted to any risk.

Evaluation of Pupil Learning *

This should be realistic & specific. 
To what extent did the pupils achieve the learning objectives?  What additional learning outcomes were achieved?  What should the pupils do next?

Evaluation of Teaching *

Have I improved the particular Teaching Skills which were a focus. 
What did I learn?  What would I do differently next time? 

*     While your evaluations will often involve concise comments, there will be key lessons where a longer, more reflective Detailed Evaluation will be required.

Where much of the lesson content is given in Powerpoint or Interactive Whiteboard Software, this should be attached to the Lesson Plan which should show the aspects not contained in the PP / IWB.

Topic Planning

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While an overview of each topic will be given in the school's scheme of work, this proforma is designed to help you to make the topic your own and to book resources needed in advance.  It should also reduce any anxiety about the content of individual lesson plans.  Crucially it provides a basis for initial discussion with your mentor or class teacher well before the start of teaching about the level and range of activities.  As you move through the course the topic plan may become more of the focus for discussions with your mentor than the individual lesson plans. 

The following notes should help to explain how the proforma should be used.

Topic Details

-           Most of this information should be available from the school scheme of work. 
-           Lesson Allocation:  note how many lessons of what length are available, e.g. 5 lessons of 50 minutes

Assumed Prior Learning & Teaching Approaches / Resources

-           These sections should result from your discussions with your mentor.
-           Clarity about APL is particularly important.  What knowledge, skills and understanding are you assuming pupils will have as they start the topic?  You can find out what pupils have been taught previously from the class teacher and class records as well as looking at schemes of work and NC & NS documentation but you also need to explore whether pupils still remember key knowledge and concepts; you could use questions or short activities at the beginning of the lesson or in an earlier lesson. 
-           Record initial ideas for content, teaching & assessment style, resources (incl. ICT), development of literacy, etc. 

Lesson Outlines 
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-           Outline the objectives and content for each of your lessons. 
-           You need to consider variety, continuity and progression. 
-           This will also allow you to book resources, e.g. ICT, in advance.

Topic Summary

-           Outline the key points you have learnt about teaching this topic and which you will need to remember when teaching it again.

While the "objectives" model of planning is now widely used and expected, it is useful to see it as an iterative process with an interaction between aims, objectives, prior learning, lesson ideas and available resources.  In the end you need to know that you have planned interesting and meaningful activities for pupils and that you can specify what you hope they will learn.

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