This paper examines the key role that graded lesson observations have within the measurement of quality in the post-compulsory education sector. Using semi-structured interviews, it looks at their impact on participants and also their execution in light of their stated purpose to ‘improve teaching and learning’. The sample selected included teachers, quality managers and initial teacher educators and covers a geographical spread from the north Midlands to London. The findings suggest that the lessons observed bore scant resemblance to the day-to-day teaching of participants. Instead teachers talked of the need to ‘put on a show’ and how they treated the annual observation with a mixture of trepidation and cynicism. The realisation that observations failed to measure what they were designed to measure was shared by other participants with quality managers, ostensibly the people who were employed to raise standards, also acknowledging the limitations of the process. The observation process was designed to reward outstanding practitioners, however, teachers talked about their reluctance to strive for outstanding grades due to the perceived onerous duties associated with achieving a top grade. Instead teachers talked about the way in which they aimed for a grade two in order to maintain a low profile. Despite the widespread cynicism amongst all participants, there was a universal belief that some form of measurement was needed to ensure that standards were maintained.
- Post-compulsory education
- Lesson observations