How to Observe a Classroom

Whether you are observing an experienced teacher to learn tactics or observing a new teacher to assess teaching development, there are some key strategies that should always be followed. There are many different methods of observation, but several elements are common to any type of observation. The most effective observation strategies are founded on being unobtrusive to the classroom while remaining involved enough to actively listen for teaching strategy and organization.

Sit in a location that is unobtrusive to the workings of the classroom, such as the back corner of the room. You should not hinder the normal flow of the classroom so observation of a normal class is possible. Sit outside the main activity locations but close enough to see and actively listen to everything that goes on.

Note the strategies the teacher uses in lecture time. Observe whether the teacher simply stands up and lectures students on a topic or employs group work or questioning of students to spark a larger discussion. Pay attention to the level of control the teacher has over the classroom to recognize how focused the teacher's strategy is.

Recognize the balance of lecture time to work time. Grasp the teacher's overall teaching style by making note of the percentage of time the teacher spends lecturing students versus time students are given to work on assignments or group projects.

Observe the intensity of the classroom. Note whether the teacher challenges students through assignments or questioning. Pay attention to the level of vocabulary the teacher uses in lecture and the time given to students to complete assignments. Actively listen for how much explanation the teacher gives students regarding assignments. See whether the teacher explains how and why to complete the assignment.

Observe the students' overall ability to apply what they have learned independently in class in order to see how well the teacher explains new topics to their level of understanding. Observe how the physical arrangement of the classroom either helps or hinders students applying what they have learned.

Beginning her professional writing career in 2008 with the publication of an article in “The Chronicle,” Meagan has worked as a tutor and news writer practicing professional editing and writing in both the academic and journalistic realms. She has chosen professional writing and rhetoric as her academic interest and will graduate in May 2011 from Colorado State University-Pueblo.