Classroom Observations

Center for Teaching and Learning

Classroom Observation Protocol:

This document outlines the classroom observation process and procedures used by Mississippi State University’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Classroom observations are completed by CTL faculty and staff and take considerable time and effort to coordinate and complete. Please understand that we are only able to schedule a limited number of observations per semester and that it may be necessary to defer some requests to a subsequent semester.

Faculty members may also consider having others complete classroom observations to gain a broad perspective. See the information below this document for additional guidance on selecting observers, procedures and what to look for.

Deadlines for Classroom Observation Requests:

Fall 2019 Deadline for Requests: September 15th
Spring 2020 Deadline for Requests: January 31st

How to Schedule a Classroom Observation:

Submit the following prior to the posted semester deadline:

  • Course Syllabus
  • List of Appropriate Dates and Times for the Observation
  • Class Location
  • Brief Statement regarding Purpose of the Evaluation
  • Contact Information

To schedule a Classroom Observation, submit the above information to the Center for Teaching and Learning at help@ctl.msstate.edu

Procedures:

  • We generally do not observe classes prior to the 6th class day because there is not enough information for students to be able to provide meaningful feedback on course procedures. In addition, we do not observe the final class period as it is often quite different from the remainder of the course.
  • Classroom observations are completed by CTL faculty associates or CTL staff members with teaching experience and expertise.
  • When an observation is requested, the Classroom Observation Report is issued directly to the requesting faculty member.

Observation Process:

Note: The Center for Teaching and Learning’s Observation process is informed by Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook by Nancy Van Note Chism.

1. Syllabus Review

While a complete syllabus evaluation is not a part of this process, a basic review of the syllabus is helpful in providing context for the class observation as well as points of discussion for the pre-observation meeting.

2. Pre-observation Meeting with the Faculty Member

The pre-observation meeting is useful in determining what each faculty member hopes to learn from the observation. Topics that may be discussed in the pre-observation meeting include:

  • General class goals.
  • Teacher goals for the specific class period being observed.
  • Learning activities that will take place during the class period.
  • Particular aspects of teaching that the faculty member would like the observer to focus on.
  • Logistics regarding time, location, seating arrangement and observer role.

3. In-Class Observation

The class observation allows the reviewer to document the class activities, student reactions or interactions and the faculty member’s delivery and approach. The faculty observer also notes classroom conditions, layout and any pertinent physical or equipment issues.

4. Student Focus Group and Survey

Toward the end of the class period, the faculty member and any teaching assistants are asked to leave the classroom in order for the observer to conduct a survey and focus group. The observer distributes a written survey containing two questions: 1. What works well in the class? and 2. What changes could improve this class? Students answer anonymously in writing. Following the survey, a brief focus group discussion is intended to determine how much consensus there is regarding areas of success or potential improvement. A summary of the survey and focus group findings are provided in the report. In addition, the focus group is used to determine whether the observed class period is typical for the course.

5. Post-Observation Discussion

In some cases, a post-observation meeting may be useful in exploring and discussing some of the issues that arise as a part of the observation process.

Observation Report:

The observation report follows a standard format and typically includes the following:

  • Course Name
  • Catalog Description
  • Date of Observation
  • Location (and available classroom technology and equipment)
  • Observation
  • Summary of Student Responses
  • General Summary
  • Observer Signature Line

The report will be sent directly to the faculty member through campus mail under cover from the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.


Guidance for Classroom Observations (by Others):

Faculty members may consider having multiple classroom observations, including faculty peer reviewers, to gain a broader perspective on their practice. The following information is intended to provide some guidance for selecting observers and for assisting those observers in completing the observation and report.

Selecting Reviewers:

Consider selecting observers with differing perspectives. For example, if you have had an observation from the Center for Teaching and Learning then you may consider having an observation completed by a peer with increased content knowledge. Each reviewer will have a slightly different perspective and may notice different aspects of a class period. Classes and class activities may also vary considerably so multiple reviews can be useful.

Process:

Reviewers may consider using the Center for Teaching and Learning Observation Process outlined above or a modified version depending on the situation. This process and the suggestions below are informed by the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching’s Peer Review of Teaching and George Mason University’s Classroom Observation Form which observers may also wish to consult.

Suggestions for Reviewers:

Prior to the observation, it is critical to have a general understanding of the class through the syllabus and a discussion with the faculty member. Make sure to also discuss procedural aspects such as class period, where the observer should sit and whether or not a student focus group will be conducted. During the observation, it is important to take very thorough notes about what precisely occurred during the observation including student activities and reactions. In addition, note the classroom conditions, technology used and any other pertinent information. Finally it is important to complete the written report in a timely manner while the class period and activities are still easily recalled. The list below provides some items to consider in relation to the observation, but not all will be applicable to every situation.

Items to Consider during the Observation:

A. Timing, Organization and Content:  Did the class seem well timed, organized and with relevant content?

Timing:
• What happened prior to the beginning of the class period?
• Was the faculty member ready for the beginning of class?
• Do students generally arrive on time?
• How is roll handled?
• Did the class period end on time?
• Was there an appropriate conclusion to the class?

Organization:
• Were the learning objectives for the class period made clear to students?
• Were the activities that occurred organized and coherent?
• Was the faculty member thoroughly prepared for class?

Content:
• Does the teacher demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter?
• Does this knowledge and the information provided to students seem current?
• Did students seem to be understanding the content?
• Did the teacher connect material to students’ prior knowledge?

B. Classroom Environment: Was the classroom environment conducive to learning?

Interactions in the Classroom:
• What interactions occurred in the classroom?
• Did the faculty member handle student questions appropriately?
• Did students appear comfortable asking questions?
• Were students encouraged to ask questions?
• Did the faculty member promote further engagement with the subject?

Participation by Students:
• Were students paying attention during class?
• Did students appear to be taking notes appropriately?
• Were any distracting behaviors evident or dealt with?

C. Methods: Did the methods and forms of assessment used promote learning and engagement?

Learning Activities:
• What learning activities occurred during the class period?
• Was there any application of knowledge or skills?
• Was there effective use of technology?
• Was lecture used effectively?

Assessment:
• What kinds of assessment and feedback were used or discussed?
• Were these methods appropriate?

Presentation:
• Were students generally able to see, hear and follow the presentation of information?

 

Questions?

Please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning at (662) 325-2083 or help@ctl.msstate.edu for more information.