Learning or checking?

I was in West Barns Primary School yesterday and was speaking to a P6/7 class. One of the boys asked me if I was an inspector and I asked him why he thought that –  “Well you’re wearing suit and watching what we are doing”, was his logical reply.  Euan had never seen an inspector in the school before.  Yet the notion of the “inspector” in our society seems to be deeply ingrained.

I asked him what he thought an inspector’s job was – “They make sure that we are doing the right things” – he replied.  I suppose he managed to capture the traditional  conception of the inspector’s role. But I wonder if that role might be on the verge of evolving into something quite different? – or at least how we replicate that role within schools and local authorities.

Perhaps we need to imagine a time when we could leave the school to judge if they were doing the “right things”.  Such a model would depend upon trust – but more importantly that the school knew what the right things were and  had the capacity – and the information – to make that judgement for themselves and the capacity to do something about it if they judged a gap.

I found this linked well with a discussion we had today at our 3-18 Strategic Learning and Teaching Group about classroom observation where we explored the following: “How do we make sure that classroom observation has a positive impact upon learning and teaching in the school?”

I used my recent post on this issue as a stimulus . What emerged in the course of the discussion was that the output – e.g 75 observations undertaken by management in  a school in a single year, has no correlatiion on the quality of learning and teaching that one might expect to see in that school. Our group – which involved people from all levels in the service agreed that it was more about creating a learning culture or ethos where such observations played a key role in that learning process geared towards improving what we do in the class..

To return to my visit to West Barns I had explored this with the class and it was amazing to listen to how they understood the difference between someone watching and checking and someone watching and learning.

It was a credit to their teacher and their school that they were able to actively engage with a stranger in such discussion at such a level and differentiate between these two alternative dimensions.

I know which dimension I would prefer?