Diary of an NQT: Taking the time to observe others

Written by: Diary of an NQT | Published:
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Having finally found some time to observe some of her colleagues' lessons, our NQT diarist recommends that all new teachers choose a focus and head out into the school to see other teachers' practice

I am trying my best to use my remaining time as an NQT effectively. I have been considering how to spend the rest of the year in such a way that I can monopolise my reduced timetable wisely.

One element of the training year that I found particularly useful was the opportunity to observe other teachers on a regular basis. Obviously, there is less occasion for this during the NQT year, but recently

I have made a conscious effort to fit these observations into my timetable.

There are two areas of my practice that I want to focus on. As such, I have visited the classrooms of teachers known for their excellent work in these areas in order to brush up on approaches and identify some ideas for development.

1: Stretch and challenge of high-ability students

Teaching to the top is a principle well understood by many teachers I think, but there is always the risk that comes with trying to find the right balance between “depth and speed”.

I visited a lesson delivered to high-ability key stage 4 students that opened my eyes to how pitching lessons ambitiously can be fundamental in terms of gain.

The key insight for me came from the teacher’s persona. What was clear throughout was a celebration of academic curiosity and being sure to never talk down the significance of knowledge – both inside and outside of the classroom.

Dialogical questioning and discussion between student and teacher were key to the fluency of the lesson, with a consistent reference to the bigger picture – i.e how does this small piece of information link to the wider themes previously learned?

Highlighting these links meant that lots of independent learning took place. Alongside this was the clever management of resources, such as the use of knowledge organisers (also contributing to the sense of contextualising the learning) and exposing students to the quality of work that is expected of them through various exemplars.

2: Differentiation

I am keen to build on my own effective use of differentiation in the classroom. I visited a mixed ability class of year 7 students (taught by another member of staff) and witnessing this lesson helped dispel the myth that differentiation is simply having a different worksheet for each ability!

Again, the management and organisation of resources meant that the task set was subtly scaffolded for those that needed it, with different levels of challenge set during group work.

Each student took a role and when this was mastered they were instructed to swap, which avoided any chance of complacency and boredom among the learners. The challenge was there, but it was built-up through a pragmatic medium of tasks. This proved to be the most valuable aspect in terms of their learning.

Lessons learned

I am glad that I have made the time to visit other teachers. Although it is now May, it is never too late and observing more experienced teachers is something I hope to do throughout my career. Sometimes it is easy to forget that we are still learning day-to-day.

Observations of others can be difficult to manage, and it is certainly time-consuming, but I would advise any other NQTs in my situation to jump at the chance if you can.

If you think there are areas of your practice that could be a little more polished, use the most valuable resource to you and call on your mentors or fellow colleagues.

  • Our NQT diarist is an English teacher at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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