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Cornell University

Classroom Observations

During a classroom observation, a classroom session observed and possibly video recorded for the purpose of developing teaching practice through self-reflection and peer feedback.

CTI staff are available for both classroom observations and videotaping for faculty who would like to enhance the classroom experience for their students. Contact the CTI via email (cornellcti@cornell.edu) or phone (607-255-7224) to arrange for a pre-observation discussion and subsequent post-observation (or post-videotaping) debriefing.

Why have a classroom observation?
How can you arrange a classroom observation?
What are some suggestions for having an effective classroom observation?

Why have a classroom observation?

A classroom observation provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Obtain supportive feedback on your teaching practice.
  • Make a realistic plan to fine-tune teaching skills.
  • Document your instructional development.
  • Develop reflective teaching practices that can lead to improved teaching.

How can you arrange a classroom observation?

  • Identify who will observe your class and make arrangements for a pre-observation meeting, the observation of the class, and a post-observation meeting.
  • Choose a class session to be observed. This session can be a very typical class, or it can be unique in some way.
  • During the pre-observation meeting, discuss what you would like your observer to pay particular attention to.
  • While being observed, let your students know what you are doing and why (you may want to briefly introduce the observer and let students know that they are not being observed) and conduct your class in your usual style.
  • During the post-observation debriefing shortly after the observation, receive and review your feedback and discuss possible goals and a development plan.


Observations can also be self-recorded using a video camera. If you are recording your own classroom session, your observations will be more effective if you follow similar pre and post observation procedures.

What are some suggestions for having an effective classroom observation?

  • Think about what the goals of your class are and what aspects of your teaching you are interested in receiving feedback on.
  • Take notes throughout the observation process. Consider including them as part of a teaching portfolio.
  • Consider participating in multiple observations over a period of time to revisit your teaching performance and to document your development as an instructor.
  • Plan to collaborate with a colleague by agreeing to observe each other’s classes.

Resources

Peer Review Resources
Although these documents were developed for the more formalized peer review process, the same guidelines can be applied to classroom observations.

Places to Go Next

Teaching Evaluation Handbook pdf
Portfolio
Peer Review of Teaching

References

Davis, B.G. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco: CA Jossey-Bass.
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