Despite what many think, classroom observations are more difficult and complex than they appear. Classroom observers need to be on the lookout for several interacting variables. Thus, one of the most difficult parts of classroom observations is knowing how to detangle those variables from one another and focus on each individually.
With that in mind, we put together this handy list of the 50 most important things to look for during classroom observations.
50 Indicators for Classroom Observations
- Identify the type of lesson. That is, is it a lecture, a demonstration, a supervised study, a review session, or another kind of lesson?
- Time to start lessons. How long does it take the teacher to get the class started at the beginning?
- How long does it take to transition from one lesson to another? Are there breaks in between each lesson module?
- Whether the teacher explains rules and procedures for lessons/activities. How in-depth is their explanation of rules and procedures?
- Does the teacher lay down clear expectations for lessons and other activities? Do they say exactly what they need from students?
- Clarity of presentation. Whether or not lessons are given in a clear, concise, and consistent manner, and whether appropriate language is used.
- What kind of materials are the lessons supplemented with? Does the teacher use audiovisual materials or primarily text?
- Do lessons follow a clearly delineated structure and plan? Whether or not students have access to this plan from the offset.
- What kind of pace does the teacher take when giving lessons? Is it too fast, too slow?
- Does the teacher spend an equal amount of time on different lesson components, or is the time spread unevenly over the lesson structure?
- What is the flow between each part of the lesson? Do the lessons flow naturally into one another, or are they disjointed?
- Is the lesson introduction designs to capture the students’ attention, and does it actually grab their interest?
- Does the teacher summarize lessons at the end to reinforce key concepts? How is the lesson summarized?
- Does the teacher utilize practical examples and demonstrations to illustrate concepts in the lecture? What is the nature of these demonstrations?
- What is the flow of classroom conversations? Does it flow primarily from teacher to student, or is conversation back and forth?
- Does the teacher take regular stops in lessons to clarify concepts and check individual understanding?
- How the teacher reinforces concepts during lessons. Do they ask individual students questions to improve understanding and assess their understanding?
- Does the teacher cold call on students to ensure that multiple students have their voice heard?
- Do questions asked by the teacher contribute to the target objective, or are they off-topic?
- Whether or not questions teach students to think beyond a traditional yes/no paradigm and cultivate original thinking and synthesis.
- Are students given time to discuss concepts amongst themselves? What is the degree of group work?
- Does the teacher differentiate their strategy to meet a diverse array of student needs, or is their teaching focus on a single modality and presentation?
- To what degree does it seem like the students are engaged in active learning?
- Does the teacher share active strategies for success with the student?
- How does the teacher monitor students during independent work time?
Use of Materials
- How effective are the chosen materials for the kind of lesson? Do the materials complement the kind of lesson?
- Does the teacher utilize multiple types of learning materials in the same lesson? What kinds of materials do they use?
- Whether or not different materials and lesson media-types are integrated together well/
- Do the materials seem to be having the intended effect? What evidence is there that the used materials are successful?
- Does the teacher lecture from a textbook? If so, does the textbook dominate class lessons? How is the textbook integrated into lessons?
- How are handouts arranged? Do they contribute to or detract from the larger lesson?
- Did the teacher provide enough copies of the handouts for students and any classroom observers?
Assignments, Testing, and Grading
- When are assignments given? Do the assignments have a clear purpose and rubric?
- How do the assignments relate to the concepts covered during the lesson? Are they review or do they expand?
- What are student reactions to assignments? Do they feel as if assignments set reasonable expectations?
- What is the format of any tests or quizzes? Is the test format suitable for the kind of material that was covered?
- Do test questions engage students’ critical thinking, or are they more focused on memorization and compartmentalization?
- How does the teacher handle grading? How does the teacher feel about their own grading performance?
- Do students receive adequate feedback from their performance on assignments, quizzes, and tests? What is th4e quality of this feedback?
- How is the furniture in the room arranged? Is it arranged in a way conducive to the particular lesson?
- How are students seated? Are they seated in a way appropriate for the kind of lesson?
- How are materials arranged for viewing? Can students in all parts of the room clearly see learning materials?
- Does the teacher create a proper learning environment through the room’s setup? That is, are distractions minimized?
- Does the teacher effectively use their space for lectures and demonstrations?
- Does the classroom have proper safety equipment and arranged in a way that minimizes risks? What does the teacher do to prevent accidents?
External Factors (Other)
- What is the frequency of classroom interruptions? What are these interruptions for, and who commits them?
- How much time is spent on “non-instructional” aspects of the lesson?
- How does the teacher deal with unexpected interruptions in their lessons or demonstrations?
- How does the teacher manage order and discipline in the classroom?
- What factors contribute to making the “tone” of the classroom appropriate?
Classroom observations are a powerful tool to improve teacher performance. These are just a few of the key things to look for when performing either a formal or informal classroom walkthrough.