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CTL

CLASSROOM OBSERVATION

Faculty Handbook, Part I: Bylaws
“By the beginning of the second year of service, formal classroom observations for review purposes must commence. A completed classroom observation regimen consists of 2 visits to the same class in one semester by the same faculty member. At least two faculty members will have completed a classroom observation regimen for the candidate by the end of the first semester of the third year of service (in other words, the last semester before Review 1).

In general, these observations should be conducted by faculty members of the observed faculty member’s department or program. In rare circumstances, observations for review purposes may be conducted by faculty outside of an observed faculty member’s department or program; however, observations conducted by outside faculty must be approved by CoTAP prior to the observation. All faculty who have completed a classroom observation regimen should include comments on those classroom visits in their departmental letters, or write a separate letter based on those classroom observations. (Rare circumstances include those in which there is no faculty member in the department or program who has the expertise required to evaluate the classroom performance of the observed faculty member, e.g., in an area studies program where no one in the program is sufficiently fluent in the language in which the observed faculty member is teaching, or where there are not at least two colleagues additional to the candidate in the department/program.) In general, classroom observation procedures and documentation should follow the classroom observation guidelines set out in the Faculty Handbook, Section VIII.2 [REVISED May 2012].”

—Faculty Handbook, Part I: Bylaws, pg. 10


Overview

The Center for Teaching and Learning and Committee on the Faculty (CoFac) have collaborated to provide resources for academic departments and programs to create procedures for classroom observations based on best practices as spelled out in page 77 of the Faculty Handbook. Classroom observations provide a summative assessment for the tenure review process, but also provide a formative assessment for individual teaching. Formative observations can also be done through the CTL Midsemester Assessment Process (MAP) and more information can be found here. The resources here will help with both summative and formative observation assessments and will help to create a culture of collegial support around pedagogy.

Faculty Suggestions and Themes for Classroom Observations

In February 2013, the CTL and CoFac held a series of small discussions with faculty to discuss observing faculty, being observed, and departmental procedures. The following themes and suggestions emerged from those discussions:

  1. There seems to be a general agreement that departments should determine observation criteria, which should reflect the definition of good teaching in the faculty bylaws and of good teaching within disciplinary context, as well as both the Bylaws and Faculty Handbook information about classroom observation, and
    • It would be helpful to discuss colleague observation in the context of departmental SAC documents.
    • Criteria and process for observation should be departmentally determined and made transparent.
    • Feedback should be written and shared.
  2. There were often-expressed suggestions that scheduling observations should be a priority for several reasons.
    • To avoid squeezing observations in at the end of semester or other high-stress periods, or to avoid having multiple observers during one class period.
    • To allow the faculty member being observed to consider their course syllabus and suggest potential dates with course content in mind.
    • To avoid questions about whose responsibility it is to make certain observations were scheduled (observer or the observed?).
    • To permit the scheduling of the pre-conversation and the follow-up conversation for feedback.
    • To allow the department as a whole to schedule all observations for the semester during the first departmental meeting each semester or at the beginning of each semester.
  3. There seems to be a desire to create a culture of observation within a department or across departments.
    • Mutual observations (both Sr. & Jr. faculty) would illustrate classroom observations as part of reflective teaching practice, which also helps to normalize the process for students.
    • Departments should discuss and determine how to frame observations for students.
    • To make observations more useful for growing as teachers, to make it part of an ongoing dialogue about teaching.
  4. These specific suggestions have emerged:
    • Having a list of faculty willing to be open their classrooms for observations across disciplines would broaden thinking about teaching.
    • There is a need, a desire, for more back-and-forth about teaching among colleagues.
    • A full-day, “active practice” workshop on colleague observation, feedback, etc. would be useful.
    • A workshop on giving and receiving feedback would be useful.
    • There is a need for some method to address the 10 items listed in the bylaws for evaluating teaching for tenure.
    • Video recording of oneself teaching for self-evaluative purposes is a very effective technique.
    • The usefulness of a Department Chairs’ mutual discussion about the requirement.