Teaching: The art of simplicity

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler’ (Albert Einstein)

There is no doubt that teaching at a consistently high level is challenging and that it requires a plethora of skills. SSAT training titled ‘Effective lesson observation using the new OFSTED framework’ reminded its audience that good teachers plan whilst outstanding teachers are intuitive. The outstanding teachers watch students and ensure high levels of learning based on their performance and progress whilst good teachers often require students to do the same thing with the same resources at all times.

However this does not mean that outstanding lessons are unachievable and that they can only be achieved by a skilful few. In fact the drive to deliver outstanding lessons is often made more difficult because we construct a far too over complicated picture about what is required. As a result teachers can actually limit the quality of their lessons by a false belief that the outstanding level is too difficult to attain. The training delivered from Chris McCloskey Associates to our school demonstrated the power that these self-limiting beliefs can have. The fact that many staff indicated they could not draw showed the restraints we naturally place on ourselves but the fact that we all were able to draw cartoons after just a five minute lesson showed that these beliefs can be challenged and changed.

Thus sometimes we need to remember some simple questions when planning for provision that will allow students to make outstanding progress:


1. What is it that the students are to learn? What gains in knowledge, skills and understanding are required?

2. What provision can be provided that will allow students to make outstanding progress in achieving these objectives?

3. How will you and the students know the extent to which these learning gains are being achieved?

4. How will you respond to this information concerning the extent to which learning gains are being achieved?


Of course the complexities of teaching cannot be reduced to simple formulas but it is possible to plan and deliver outstanding lessons and sometimes a series of simple questions will help focus our efforts to do so.

 What outstanding lessons are you going to deliver this week?

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *