Chichester College scoops AoC Beacon Award

Read how lesson observations helped a college win an award

14 July 2014

Chichester College was awarded an Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award for Staff Development in Further Education this year, and for good reason. The award, sponsored by City & Guilds, was given to to the college for its innovative 'Licence to Observe' internal staff training programme.

Supporting development

'Licence to Observe' is a lesson observation process that helps support teaching and learning development at the college. It ensures that all those who observe lessons are operating to the same high-quality standard. Around 40 staff members including curriculum managers and learning coaches, as well as 15 students, completed the five-session course, which qualifies them to properly observe a lesson and give developmental feedback.

The principal of Chichester College, Sheila Legrave, and her team saw that teachers needed more feedback on how to improve their teaching. They realised that a major part of that was to standardise lesson observations. That way, an observation not only shows what needs improvement, but also ‘celebrates what they are doing fantastically well,’ Legrave adds.

Better observations

She explains that, so far, the college has used the scheme to train a number of staff and student observers. The impact has been an increase in lesson success rates, improved student satisfaction, and consistent results in observing.

Involving students in the process has been particularly valuable, not just for teachers, but for the entire classroom environment. 

‘Our students are now getting all-round better teaching and learning from the college because our teachers are much clearer about how they’re performing in the classroom; what’s working and what isn’t.’

Building on success

Though lesson observation is a practice that Chichester College has always invested in, Legrave says that she had been concerned the old system wasn’t effective enough to justify the time put into it. ‘Our teachers feel much more supported in their teaching observations than they were before and we’ve got greater satisfaction from the observers who know exactly what they’re doing and what they’re trying to achieve,’ she says.

Building on its success, Chichester College is now engaging in a dissemination event nationally to invite other colleges to adopt the training programme. Internally, Legrave says, the management team will continue to reflect on how the scheme is working and make improvements to it. ‘We’re also now piloting a non-graded system of lesson observation so teachers focus more on the feedback and less on the grade,’ Legrave says. ‘It’s one of many ways we’re working to develop and enhance the training scheme.’

Launched in 1994, the AoC Beacon Awards aim to highlight the breadth and quality of education in UK colleges.


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