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What do Outstanding Lessons Look Like?

The Daily Digest(ive) November 10th 2010

Outstanding lessons tend to be the ones that students enjoy the most.  It is often during these lessons that their hunger for learning is awakened and they are fully engaged.

Below, I have outlined some of the key elements of outstanding lessons to help you to incorporate or expand on some of these ideas in the lessons that you teach.

Set the Context:

The lesson should almost always begin with a recap of the previous lesson or an introduction to the new unit.  This ensures that students are fully up to speed and ready for the topic that will be covered in today’s lesson.

Set Clear Lesson Objectives:

It is vital that you know exactly what you are trying to achieve during the course of the lesson.  These objectives should be shared with students in a way that they can understand.  The objectives should be revisited during the lesson, allowing students to chart their progress and enabling you to ensure that the lesson is on track.

Use Clear Explanations:

Language should be a tool for communication, not a barrier.  Be careful to use accessible language whilst developing subject vocabulary and revisit the meanings of new words as often as is necessary to make every student comfortable with their use.


Carry out appropriate assessment of understanding and progress throughout your lessons.  This may be brief and informal but it should never be missing.  Without assessing progress regularly it is impossible to ensure that your lesson is providing a valuable learning opportunity to your students.


Give your students regular and unambiguous feedback on their progress whether this is better, worse, or equal to what you would have expected.  You can feedback to the whole class, to groups or to individuals as appropriate.


Outstanding lessons will invariably draw on a wide range of teaching and learning activities in order to tap into the learning styles of the different students in the class.  A variety of activities will also keep your students engaged and motivated and help them to approach the same topic in a variety of different ways and gain new viewpoints on it.


Take time at the end of the lesson to evaluate with your students, to what extent the lesson objectives have been achieved.  You can also talk to them a little about what will be covered in the next lesson to begin to form a bridge for their continuous learning.

Do you think there is anything missing from this list?  Please share your ideas and good practice by commenting.

9 responses to “What do Outstanding Lessons Look Like?”

  1. @SexEdUKation suggests that Oustanding lessons need to be engaging, creative and innovative… they are the sort of lessons that make you go Wow!

  2. Avatar Paul McKeam says:

    Current Ofsted guidance for outstanding session:

    In addition to the characteristics outlined below as satisfactory and good, delivery is highly effective and sometimes inspirational. Activities are sharply and accurately focused on meeting individual learners’ needs and promote very effective learning. Programmes and activities are highly effective and may be innovative in meeting learners’ needs and those of the wider community. Arrangements for support, care and guidance are of the highest quality. As a consequence, the number of withdrawals from programmes is very low. An increasing proportion of learners in receipt of additional learning support have achieved greater levels of autonomy and support requirements are reduced.

  3. Avatar Sam Mitchell says:

    I had some fantastic training this week about this. An Ofsted inspector walked us through the difference between good and outstanding and for me the key was in the methods used to check progress. For example, making sure that the learning objective was clear so that progress can be measured clearly. He also focussed a lot on the use of questioning. This highlighted how much the students still rely on me to evaluate their progress as they wait for me to tell them they have given the right answer. Now, I ‘m trying to get them to evaluate each other’s answers so that they are really taking charge of their progress.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Sam. That sounds like some really interesting training. It can be really helpful just to take a step back and re-evaluate elements of your own practice from time to time.

      On Monday my blog post is about questions (as I will be away for a few days, I have a few lined up). It would be great if you get a chance to read it if you can feed back some of your experiences and what you are planning to implement with your class as my post doesn’t go into as much depth as the kind of thing you are talking about here, but I think that it sounds very valuable.

  4. Thanks for this great summary.
    There’s a presentation on my website about key questions to ask yourselves to know if your lesson will be outstanding or not:

    + this resource on understanding progress:

    There are also a couple of videos and resources I prepared with Teacher’s TV on how mentors can help develop outstanding teaching:

    Hope they’re useful.
    Loic (@LKMco)

  5. Avatar David Didau says:

    I would also recommend Jackie Beere’s very helpful book, How To Teach the Perfect Ofsted Lesson from Independent Thinking – much easier to read than an Ofsted publication

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