Arising from our successful bid for Specialist Status a decade ago, we included a room specifically designed for lesson observation.
To the fleeting observer it might look like an ordinary classroom. The only apparently unusual feature is a large mirror set into one of the walls.
What appears to be a mirror, however, is actually a piece of one-way glass. Behind the glass is an observation booth, from which a teacher, or group of teachers, can observe and listen to the lesson and quietly discuss what is happening.
Considerable outstanding practice takes place at Nelson Thomlinson School and we want others to see it in the wider area of North Cumbria and beyond. The room is used to widen observation of good practice and to help spread it further around the school.
One problem with traditional lesson observations is, of course, that the very presence of an observer influences the lesson. (Any scientist will tell you that it is impossible to measure anything without altering it.) The Professional Development Room helps us to minimise this effect and – critically – allows discussion and coaching to take place while the lesson is in progress.
Moreover, we run themed weeks during the year where exemplary lessons are delivered modelling different teaching strategies from our School Development Plan.
We also use this classroom to develop the learning of our pupils. Every Year 9 pupil takes part in the Complete Learner Programme; a programme giving pupils the opportunity to think about learning in small groups with one of our outstanding teachers. Pupils engage in a learning walk around school and look at different types of learning before reflecting on their own approach. They watch a 15-30 minute section of one of their own classes in the Observation Room and they then set their own targets for future improvement. Research (Sutton Trust) shows that this type of approach can help pupils make significant progress in their learning because of the emphasis on self-awareness and independence.