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Improving teaching and learning: questions to ask
What questions can governors ask about teaching and learning in their schools? One of The Key's associate experts and 2 other organisations suggest questions governors could ask about teaching and learning. You will also find examples of evidence governors might expect to receive from the SLT.
Questions about teaching and learning
One of our associate education experts, Gulshan Kayembe, suggested some questions governors could ask the senior leadership team (SLT) about improving teaching and learning. Gulshan is an education consultant with experience of inspecting schools.
Oversight of teaching and learning
- When and how often do you check teaching?
How well does data match what you see in lessons? For example, are there teachers who produce good results but whose teaching is not as good during observation, or vice versa? What do you do about improving the impact of teaching where it's not having the necessary effect on learning?
What responsibility do subject leaders have to improve the teaching in their areas?
How often do you check pupils' books? What does that tell you about the teaching in the school? How do you use this to identify where/how teaching and learning need to be improved?
How well is the marking policy being followed? What do you do when teachers aren't following the policy?
What responsibility do subject leaders have to improve the teaching in their areas? How good are they at identifying issues in teaching?
Do teachers assess pupils accurately? How do you make sure that their assessments are accurate?
What do pupils say about teaching?
Understanding strengths and weaknesses
- How consistent is teaching across the school?
- In which subjects and year groups is teaching strongest?
- Are there any areas of the school – subjects, year groups or key stages, where teaching is a concern?
Where teaching is weaker, how do we ensure that the impact on pupils is minimised?
- What aspects of teaching are strongest/most consistent? What aspects of teaching do you feel need development?
How do you make sure that strong teachers can share their good practice?
How do you make sure that strong teachers can share their good practice?
Are any teachers teaching outside of their specialist subject area? (secondary only)
What is behaviour like in lessons? How good are teachers at getting pupils to behave well so they can focus on teaching?
Performance management and CPD
- What do you do about any teacher who is not performing well? What support do they get?
- How long does it take to improve a teacher whose performance we are not happy with?
- How do you link observations of teaching with the targets set for teachers in their performance management?
- What impact is performance management having on improving teaching and learning?
- How does the continuing professional development (CPD) programme reflect what you observe in lessons, or the issues you see in teaching?
- How do you ensure that teachers have good subject knowledge?
How do you make sure teaching assistants have the subject knowledge they need to support pupils?
Groups of pupils
- How do teachers ensure that work is set at the right level for the most able pupils?
- Do teachers understand how to use data to help them pitch their teaching at the right level?
- How do teachers make sure that pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are able to succeed in the classroom?
- What does the school do to help pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) integrate and learn English as quickly as possible?
More questions for governors to ask
Another article from The Key has a section with questions you might wish to ask about pupil achievement.
Questions from the National Leadership Development Board
The National Leadership Development Board (NLDB) was set up to support the provision of leadership development in Wales. It has published a list of questions governors could ask about various topics.
Questions that could be asked around teaching and learning include:
- Are pupils performing as expected, better or below expectations?
- What are the good features, and shortcomings, of the curriculum?
- Does the curriculum meet the needs of all pupils?
- How well do we plan to develop pupils’ wider skills, such as problem solving, working with others, and improving their own learning and performance?
- How do we set targets for pupils and measure their progress? Is it effective?
- What do we do to improve teaching?
Questions on teaching and learning in science and maths
Questions for Governors is a toolkit developed by the Wellcome Trust which includes questions designed to help governors “build up a rich picture of all aspects of their school” in science and maths. The questions can be adapted for other curriculum areas.
For each question, the trust:
- Explains why each question is important
- Gives information on benchmarks
- Suggests ideas for improvement
Questions for primary schools
Why should governors care about maths and science?
In a blog post on Key insights, Nancy Wilkinson of the Wellcome Trust introduces the Questions for Governors toolkit.
She explains that the questions have been designed to help governors drive improvement in these vital subject areas.
- How are staff encouraged to pursue CPD focused on science or maths?
- How is science and maths expertise identified within the school, and how is it used to best effect?
- What is your school's strategy for leading and teaching science and maths?
You can view the full set of questions on page 5 of the following document:
Questions for secondary schools
- How many science and maths teachers have qualifications relevant to the subjects they teach?
- Are triple science GCSEs (i.e. separate physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs) available for all students? What proportion of students take them?
- How do teachers inspire and engage their students?
The full list of questions is available on pages 4 and 5 of the following document:
Possible sources of evidence
Gulshan also suggested some possible sources of evidence governors could use to help them evaluate the effectiveness of teaching and learning in their schools:
- External data from national assessments and examination results, Analyse School Performance (ASP) or FFT
- Internal data from half-termly or termly assessment of every pupil
- Discussions with pupils to find out their opinion of teaching in the school
- Governor visits to the school – not to monitor or judge lessons, but to see:
- How well policies, such as marking and behaviour, are implemented
- Whether what governors are told by the SLT is also evident in the classroom
- Discussions with subject leaders through link governor visits
- Reports from any internal or external reviews of teaching and learning
- Results from parent, pupil and staff surveys
Gulshan Kayembe is an independent consultant who has experience of inspecting schools. As a consultant, she provides mentoring for senior leaders and has worked as an external adviser on headteachers’ performance management.
This article was updated in response to feedback from the headteacher of a large urban secondary school in the south west.
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