Resources For Conducting Classroom Observations
Many organizations share information online about preparing for or conducting classroom observations. The following resources may help guide your thinking about what type of data to collect--and how to go about collecting those data--before, during, or after classroom observations. Remember to always cite any organization or author whose instruments you use.
Learning Point offers several downloadable tools for evaluators, including interview guides and observation protocols. One example is this tool (pdf), which can be completed before an observation to collect basic information about the anticipated content objectives of the class. An observer or teacher may complete the form.
This protocol, the “Teacher Observation Guide” (pdf), is designed to be used during an observation and requires the observer to indicate the extent to which the observed teacher has accomplished specific literacy-oriented objectives. For example, an observer indicates the extent to which the teacher tapped into students’ prior knowledge before reading a text.
Teachers completing this post-observation protocol (pdf) indicate how true they feel the protocol’s prompts are about students and about the lesson as a whole. Five follow-up questions ask teachers to reflect on which aspects of the lesson needed work, which techniques worked well, and what type of support, if any, they need before the next lesson.
Horizon Research, Inc.
Horizon Research, Inc. offers downloadable tools for observations of mathematics or science classes. For example, observers completing this 22-page “Inside the Classroom Observation and Analytic Protocol” (pdf) record descriptive information about the observed class (e.g., grade level, course title, and number of students) and rate several dimensions of the instructional strategies used.
Another instrument designed by Horizon is the “Local Systemic Change through Teacher Enhancement Observation Protocol,” which measures the quality of science and mathematics lessons, strategy implementation, and the overall classroom culture.
University of Minnesota, College of Education and Human Development
University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development created the classroom observation protocol (pdf) for the Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation program (CETP). The CETP model includes a video series that trains observers on how to code common instructional strategies used during the class observation.
Research for Better Schools
Research for Better Schools uses the Memphis Striving Readers Classroom Observation Protocol (pdf) with an annotated guide and training to record instructional codes, literacy strategies, the cognitive demand level of the lesson, and level of engagement among students. Observers also are required to record detailed notes of what they hear and see teachers and students say and do (providing as many actual quotes as possible) during the observation.
U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation (NSF)
The Mathematics and Science Partnership website provides an array of resources for stakeholders interested in the content and quality of mathematics and science instruction. Specifically, the “Science Classroom Observation Guide” (pdf), designed by the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership with funding from the NSF, enables observers to rate the classroom culture, lesson content, and students’ knowledge organization evident during the observation.
Another useful NSF resource, the “IMD Product Classroom Observation Protocol” (PDF), includes scales for users to rate the levels of classroom participation and equity/culture, appropriateness of content, opportunity to learn, and quality of the lesson observed.
Sun Associates, an organization that evaluates the use and impact of technology in classrooms, offers templates for observers to use to describe classroom activities, students' interactions, and technology use.
American Institutes for Research
Staff from AIR shared the report “Researching Education as It Happens: Using Classroom Observations to Generate Quantifiable Data” (pdf) at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. The report includes instruments used for recording instructional organization and activities (i.e., teacher-led instruction versus small-group work led by students).