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Outline: Faculty Observation



Observation of one's teaching, particularly if conducted in a collaborative, professional and structured manner, can offer significant documentation of the teaching and learning process within a specific disciplinary context. Constructive feedback and discussion further provide insights into teaching strengths and weaknesses in a supportive manner, and they serve as catalysts for teaching enhancement (Millis, 1992). Observations should lead to the reinforcement of effective teaching practices or specific changes. 

As part of your participation in the HETC program, you have the opportunity to be observed by a faculty mentor in your discipline and to receive constructive feedback on your teaching and classroom dynamics. The observation is complemented by guided self-reflection. Keep in mind that the observation provides only one source of information. You need to balance that information against some other forms of instructional feedback, such as student evaluations and your own perceptions. Enjoy this opportunity to engage in dialogue with faculty about teaching in your discipline. 

This observation process models one approach to learning more about yourself as an instructor and documenting your discipline-specific teaching methods. Consider including this documentation (with some modification) in your academic professional ePortfolio. We hope you will incorporate this activity into your ongoing professional development as junior faculty. 

A. Purpose

The purpose of the teaching observation and faculty feedback is four-fold:

  • Clarify your understanding of how you teach in the discipline and how your teaching supports student learning.
  • Compare your understanding of how you teach with the feedback of others.
  • Affirm what works well and why and to decide what to change and how to change it.
  • Continue doing what works well and incorporate changes into your teaching.

          (Weimer. M.1990. Improving college teaching).

B. Guidelines - please share these with your faculty observer

Please follow the following guidelines as you engage in this portion of the HETC program. For questions, clarification contact Gabriele Bauer, HETC program coordinator.

(a) The class visited should be typical.

(b) The faculty observer and HETC Fellow should meet prior to the observation to share information re the specific class being observed, and to identify what types of feedback would be most helpful to the instructor - Pre-observation meeting

(c) The students should be informed of the upcoming observation and its purpose; for example,  "A visitor will join the class to learn more about the course."  Ideally, the observer is introduced to the students.

(d) The faculty observer should keep the following in mind: 

  • Approach the observation process in an objective, collegiate manner.
  • During the observation , assume a student perspective to focus on pedagogical activities in the classroom rather than content issues. Also, assume the role of an analytical, sympathetic critic.
  • Take notes during the observation - Classroom Observation Log. (.doc) 
  • Remain uninvolved during class, refrain from participating in class activities.
  • Conduct post-observation meeting.

(e) The HETC Fellow should keep the following in mind:

  • Invite a faculty member in the discipline to participate in this teaching observation and feedback. 
  • Explain the process and the guidelines to the faculty member (refer the faculty to this webpage). 
  • Arrange pre-observation meeting.
  • Take active role in the process by completing self-reflection activities

(f) The constructive feedback on the observation (Post-observation meeting) should be:
     (Brookfield, S. The skillful teacher and Powers, B. 1992. Instructor excellence)

  • Specific and descriptive.
  • Informative.
  • Concrete with specific examples.
  • Balanced in terms of effective teaching behaviors and areas for improvement.
  • Given promptly to reinforce performance.
  • Future-oriented, i.e., focused on both short-term and long-term actions.

(g) The HETC Fellow should submit the following materials within two weeks of the observation, if possible:

Submit as hard copies via intercampus mail OR as word attachments via e-mail to Gabriele Bauer,CTL, 212 Gore Hall.

C. Classroom Observation and Faculty Feedback Process - "Ideal" Procedure

(a) HETC Fellow invites faculty mentor from discipline to participate in process and arranges pre-observation meeting

(b) HETC Fellow and observer meet for pre-observation meeting

(c) Classroom visit take place. Observer completes Classroom Observation Log. (.doc)

(d) HETC Fellow completes Classroom Observation Self-Assessment Log. (.doc)

(e) HETC Fellow and observer meet for post-observation meeting

(f) HETC Fellow completes Reflective Narrative (.doc) and submits both observation documents to Gabriele Bauer.

(g) Program coordinator provides feedback and confirmation that the HETC Fellow has successfully completed this portion of the HETC program.

D. Pre-Observation Meeting: Guidelines

The HETC Fellow and faculty observer meet to prepare for the observation and discuss: 

  1. Overview of the course: What does the instructor hope to accomplish during the semester? How well prepared and motivated are the students? How does the instructor typically teach the class? How does the instructor  feel things have been going so far?
  2. Specific class meeting to be observed: What does the instructor hope to accomplish during this particular session? What will the  students learn during this session? What will the instructor be doing? What will the students be doing (e.g., lecture, group work, writing, power point presentation) and how will their activities support their learning?
  3. Types of feedback most helpful to the instructor (e.g., organization and presentation of content, pacing of content delivery, interaction with students, response to student questions).
  4. Logistics: Date, time, location of visit. Decide on seating arrangement during observation - typically in the back of the room or to the side to have good overview.

E. Post-Observation Meeting: Guidelines

The discussion is based on the HETC Fellow's and the faculty observer's observation notes and reflections. The observer helps the HETC Fellow describe and analyze what happened in class, including any suggestions for improvement. The following set of questions provide ways to get started. 

  • Ask questions to help clarify certain aspects of instruction; offer suggestions for specific teaching approaches that may help this instructor (e.g., writing, group work, phrasing of questions). For example: Tell me a bit about your response to the class I observed.  What was your impression of how the class went? What worked well for you in this class? Why? Is there anything you wished you had done differently? Why? How?
  • Try to describe specifically and objectively what you observed and give direct examples. Provide suggestions for enhancement during the face-to-face meeting.
  • Keep the feedback focused, specific and non-judgmental.
  • Share your own teaching stories, practices.
  • Avoid prescriptive language.

F. Reading 

Millis, B. (1992). Conducting effective peer classroom observations. In Wulff, D., & Nyquist, J. (eds.). To improve the academy (pp. 189-201). Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press. (pdf)

G. Observation and Reflection Instruments

a. Classroom Observation Log - Faculty Observer (.doc) 

Faculty observer documents and records the teaching process during the observation. Also, refers to the document during the post-observation meeting.

b. Classroom Observation Self-Assessment Log - HETC Fellow (.doc)

HETC Fellow reflects on the observation. Also, refers to the document during the post-observation meeting.

c. Reflective Narrative - HETC Fellow (.doc)

HETC Fellow synthesizes observation and discussion and considers areas for teaching enhancement.