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Ofsted : Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution ?. Robert Coe, Durham University Association of Colleges Annual Conference, 19 November 2013. Ofsted: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?. Both The case for evidence and rigour Accountability dos and don’ts

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Ofsted : Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution ?

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Ofsted: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

Robert Coe, Durham University

Association of Colleges Annual Conference, 19 November 2013

Ofsted: Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?

  • Both

  • The case for evidence and rigour

  • Accountability dos and don’ts

  • Problems with judgement and classroom observation

  • What could be improved?

Evidence and rigour in the search for real improvement


(Updated from Coe, 2007)

School ‘improvement’ often isn’t

  • School would have improved anyway

    • Those willing to improve will (misattributed to intervention)

    • Chance variation (esp if start low)

  • Poor outcome measures

    • Perceptions of those who worked hard at it

    • No assessment of pupil learning

  • Poor evaluation designs

    • Weak evaluations more likely to show positive results

    • Improved intake mistaken for impact of intervention

  • Selective reporting

    • Dredging for anything positive (within a study)

    • Only success is publicised

(Coe, 2009, 2013)


Impact vs cost

Most promising for raising attainment


May be worth it



Peer tutoring

Early Years

Homework (Secondary)

1-1 tuition

Effect Size (months gain)



Small gp tuition


Parental involvement

Smaller classes



Summer schools

Individualised learning

Small effects / high cost

After school


Homework (Primary)

Teaching assistants

Performance pay



Ability grouping



Cost per pupil

Monitoring the quality of teaching

  • Classroom observation

    • Much harder than you think!

    • Multiple observations/ers, trained and QA’d

  • Progress in assessments

    • Quality of assessment matters

  • Student ratings

    • Extremely valuable, if done properly


Accountability cultures

  • Trust

  • Confidence

  • Challenge

  • Supportive

  • Improvement-focus

  • Problem-solving

  • Long-term

  • Genuine quality

  • Evaluation

  • Distrust

  • Fear

  • Threat

  • Competitive

  • Target-focus

  • Image presentation

  • Quick fix

  • Tick-list quality

  • Sanctions

Ways to avoid gaming

  • Choose measures that are genuinely aligned with what is valued (& hard to distort)

  • State general aims, but be vague/flexible about specific targets/measures

  • Actively look for (and publicise) gaming and unintended consequences; encourage whistle-blowing on counter-productive gaming

  • Build in loophole-closing mechanisms (eg to re-align credit with difficulty/value)

  • Combine statistical measures with face-to-face observation & judgement

  • Measure a wide range of outcomes

  • Look at distributions, not just thresholds

(Bevan & Hood, 2006; Bird et al., 2005; Smith 1995; Fitz-Gibbon 1997)

Problems with judgement and classroom observation

Do We Know a Successful Teacher When We See One?

  • Filmed lessons (or short clips) of effective (value-added) and ineffective teachers shown to

    • School Principals and Vice-Principals

    • Teachers

    • Public

  • Some agreement among raters, but unable to identify effective teaching

  • No difference between education experts and others

  • Training in CLASS did help a bit

Strong et al 2011

Obvious – but not trueWhy do we believe we can spot good teaching?

  • We absolutely know what we like

    • Strong emotional response to particular behaviours/styles is hard to over-rule

  • We focus on observable proxies for learning

    • Learning is invisible

  • Preferences for particular pedagogies are widely shared, but evidence/understanding of their effectiveness is limited

  • We think learning depends on what the teacher does

  • We assume that if you can do it you can spot it

  • We don’t believe observation can miss so much

Poor Proxies for Learning

  • Students are busy: lots of work is done (especially written work)

  • Students are engaged, interested, motivated

  • Students are getting attention: feedback, explanations

  • Classroom is ordered, calm, under control

  • Curriculum has been ‘covered’ (ie presented to students in some form)

  • (At least some) students have supplied correct answers (whether or not they really understood them or could reproduce them independently)

Hamre et al (2009)

Simons & Chabris (1999)

“We generally recommend that observers have some classroom experience. However, we sometimes find that individuals with the most classroom experience have the greatest difficulty becoming certified CLASS observers. Experienced teachers or administrators often have strong opinions about effective teaching practice. The CLASS requires putting those opinions aside, at least while using the CLASS, to attend to and score specific, observable teacher-child interactions.” (Hamre et al 2009, p35)

“Becoming a certified CLASS observer requires attending a two-day Observation Training provided by a certified CLASS trainer and passing a reliability test. The reliability test consists of watching and coding five 15-minute classroom video segments online … Trainings with a CLASS certified trainer result in 60-80% of trainees passing the first reliability test … CLASS Observation recertification requirements include annually taking and passing a reliability test.” (Hamre et al 2009, p37-8)

In the EPPE 3-11 study, observers had 12 days of training and achieved an inter-rater reliability of 0.7. (Sammons et al 2006, p56)


Percentages based on simulations


Percentages based on simulations

Part of the solution

  • Accountability is here to stay

  • It should definitely include site visits and classroom observation

  • Recent policy changes and statements from Ofsted are positive

Requires Improvement

  • Ofsted must demonstrate that all inspectors are able to interpret complex data

  • Ofsted should use a validated protocol for lesson observation, with appropriate training

  • Ofsted should demonstrate the validity of all aspects of inspectors’ judgements

  • There should be ongoing, transparent, independently verified processes for QA

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