EEF Evaluations: Lesson Study and Teacher Observation

15 November 2017


The EEF has recently released two evaluation reports on CPD approaches that have been trialled in schools in the UK: Lesson Study and Teacher Observation. Even though both reports identify the impact of these interventions on pupil outcomes as zero, this is not to say that we have nothing to learn from the findings. Indeed, closer inspection of the studies can provide some very useful insight about how to go about implementing effective CPD in our schools.

Lesson Study

The Intervention

Lesson Study is an approach to teacher development that originates from Japan. It involves a small group of teachers co-planning lessons with a shared learning goal. One of the teachers then delivers the co-planned lesson whilst the others observe, followed by group development of the practice through feedback and further planning.

In the UK, Edge Hill University developed a Lesson Study programme with a talk for learning content, specifically aimed at literacy and numeracy teaching in Year 4 and 5. For this programme, teachers worked in groups of three to collaboratively plan, observe and analyse lessons with a shared goal. The observations were focused on two ‘case pupils’ per class who were identified as underachieving. The aim of the programme was to investigate whether the intervention improved student attainment through increased teacher effectiveness.


The EEF note in that this was a particularly large-scale evaluation, which included over 181 schools, and that their findings are robust. The main conclusion of the evaluation is that ‘there is no effect of this Lesson Study intervention on […] academic outcomes for pupils on average, or among any subgroups’. However, the EEF is clear in its elucidation of other findings from which we can draw evidence to inform future CPD implementation. For example, the teacher participants rated the training highly, and found the process interesting and well structured. This, coupled with the feedback that the programme was relatively easy to implement and not overly costly, suggests that there are worthwhile elements to explore for CPD development, for example peer support. Additionally, whilst there is no evidence to demonstrate a clear positive impact of Lesson Study from this programme, the evaluation found that many schools’ current practice already incorporated elements of this specific package, for example lesson observations. It is, therefore, only possible to conclude that in these trials structured Lesson Study had no greater benefit than what was already happening in schools.


Teacher Observation

The Intervention

Teacher Observation is a programme of structured peer observations. Teachers observe and are observed by their peers a number of times, and use software to keep a record of classroom observations to use for review and data collection. The software collates data about predefined criteria, for example behaviour management in the observed lesson, and this is used for review and developmental purposes.

In the UK, the Teacher Observation intervention was carried out by researchers from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) at the University of Bristol. The CMPO researchers trained lead teachers in English and maths in using RANDA software, and these lead teachers subsequently trained colleagues in their schools. The programme requested the intervention schools to involve all maths and English teachers in a series of 20 minute structured peer observations over a two year period, focused on Year 10 and Year 11 lessons. English and maths departments in each school were allocated to either high or low dosage observations: The minimum number of observations was set at three in the low dosage schools and four in high dosage schools, although the project developers advocated higher dosages for each group. The aim of this programme was to determine the impact of whole-school intervention on the attainment of students in English and maths.


This efficacy trial involved 82 secondary schools with high proportions of students eligible for free school meals (FSM), and the EEF state that the findings from this study have very high security. The overall conclusion drawn by the EEF is that ‘the project found no evidence that Teacher Observation improves combined GCSE English and maths scores’. The report identifies significant implementation difficulties that intervention schools encountered. For example the final number of observations completed was much lower than the project developers’ recommendations (6 observations in low dosage schools and 12 observations in high dosage schools). This limitation is attributed to the challenges teachers face in scheduling time to observe other lessons, especially as many participating teachers felt uncomfortable taking time out of their own teaching to complete observations of their peers. Additionally, as with Lesson Study, almost three-quarters of the control group schools were already doing some form of peer observation prior to the Teacher Observation intervention. Consequently, the lack of impact from this study may be because the intervention was no more beneficial to student outcomes than the practices that were already in place in most of the intervention schools.


Reflective Questions

Although neither of these programmes provided conclusive evidence about what is the most effective practice for teacher CPD, we are still able to derive some useful points for consideration when implementing CPD programmes in our schools.

  1. How will you get staff on board? Both approaches note that teacher ‘buy-in’ is a significant factor for successful implementation of CPD. Consideration of how this ‘buy-in’ can be fostered is therefore pertinent.
  2. Who will coordinate the CPD programme? Findings from the Lesson Observation approach in particular identified the crucial role of the coordinator – a lead member of staff who fixes the schedule (including organising any necessary cover) and publically demonstrates a positive attitude and willingness towards the programme.
  3. How will you ensure the CPD programme has high status? The projects appeared to run more successfully when participants viewed them as peer-driven, evidence-informed, well-equipped and formalised, with time clearly allocated for reflection sessions.
  4. How will you balance staff interest with impact? The EEF report that a successful element of these programmes was the positive response of teacher participants, particularly in the Lesson Study. However, this has to be weighed against the  impact on student outcomes.

Overall, these studies provide some interesting insights about peer observation, but it seems that schools need to think carefully about how they implement and evaluate the these programmes as they are not always effective in delivering improved student outcomes.

Further Reading

Posted on 15 November 2017
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