Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Teaching Observation Services

The University Teaching Center (UTC) provides three different means of producing observations, and all three can be used, at the faculty member’s choice, in evaluation materials. Our teaching observation options serve as  excellent resources to faculty members by providing valuable feedback to supplement student evaluations and peer reviews. 

Student Observer Program
Peer Observer Program
Teaching Practices Inventory

Student Observer Program

The student observer program is temporarily suspended due to the Covid pandemic.

The Student Observer Program is a unique faculty development opportunity designed to assist faculty with further developing or improving their teaching. 

This program can provide faculty and departments with useful feedback on educational strategies. Student Observers* are carefully selected and trained undergraduate or graduate students who observe classes and work with the faculty to improve teaching. They serve as excellent resources for instructors, providing valuable data to supplement student evaluations and peer review.Student Observer

Participation in the Student Observer Program by faculty is voluntary and observation information gathered is confidential.

Request a student observer

Student Observer Program Benefits

    • The program is faculty-driven and completely confidential, which allows faculty an opportunity to gain valuable, objective feedback from students genuinely interested in helping further develop teaching and learning at the University.
    • Some faculty choose to include the feedback in their dossier when going up for promotion and tenure, others may chose to keep the information confidential and use it as a tool to improve upon their teaching, and some may use an initial observation as a baseline and request another once they have implemented changes to determine effectiveness and/or improvement.

A faculty member interested in having a Student Observer submits an online request to the University Teaching Center. Once the request is received, the Student Observer Program manager matches a Student Observer with the faculty member preferably with content knowledge in a course specified within the faculty’s request.

Once a Student Observer is matched with a faculty member, the Observation Process consists of the following 4 steps:

    • Step 1 - The Pre-Observation Meeting: During this meeting the Student Observer meets with the faculty member to gain a better understanding of the particular needs of the faculty member and finalize details such as dates and times of the observations.  It is often helpful for the instructor to provide a course syllabus to the Observer at this meeting.
    • Step 2 - The Observations: The Student Observer observes the class 2-3 times collecting data during each observation.
    • Step 3 - The Observation Report: The student observer uses the data collected over the course of the observations to generate a 2- to 3-page Observation Feedback Report for the faculty member.
    • Step 4 - The Post Observation Meeting: The student meets with the faculty member to share the Observation Feedback Report with him/her.  Observation Feedback Reports are generated according to the type of observation that is requested/conducted.

The Four Types of Observations offered include:

    • General Class Observation
: During this type of observation, the Student observer focuses on how the class proceeded or what happened during class.
    • Focused Class Observation
: During this type of observation, the Student Observer is watching for a specific behavior or concern, as requested by the faculty member, i.e., distracting mannerisms.
    • Course Content Observation: During this type of observation, the Student observer focuses on the course content, taking notes as if enrolled in the course.
    • Facilitated Class Observation: During this type of observation, the Student Observer spends 20-30 minutes conducting an observation activity with the 
 entire class
*Students are nominated/recommended by faculty and/or recruited through the University Teaching Center.

Peer Observer Program

The peer observer program is temporarily suspended due to the Covid pandemic.

A thoughtful peer observation of teaching is valuable in three critical ways. First, it provides the faculty member whose teaching is observed formative feedback on their teaching so they can discern ways to improve their ability to help students learn. Second, it can be used to provide evidence of effective teaching practices for evaluation, such as in tenure and promotion dossiers or annual evaluations, if the observed faculty member chooses to include the observation report in their portfolio. Finally, it provides the observer with an opportunity to learn from the faculty member they observe, and to reflect upon their own teaching practices.

Observers for this process are tenured faculty members who value teaching as integral to their mission, have volunteered to serve as peer observers, and have participated in a UT- sponsored session where they reviewed the process, worked with the observation guide, and discussed the kinds of feedback that are thoughtful and useful for the improvement of teaching.

Peer Observation of Teaching process

    • Step 1 - The faculty member requests a peer observation of their teaching by submitting this form.
    • Step 2 - The UTC will contact the faculty members who have volunteered and prepared to be peer observers to learn who is available during the preferred scheduling window.
    • Step 3 - The UTC will send an email introducing the two to each other and providing the documents necessary for the process. The observer and the faculty member will agree upon whether to conduct the pre-observation information sharing electronically or in a face-to-face meeting, the date and time of the observation, and the date and time for the follow-up meeting.
    • Step 4 - The faculty member provides a copy of the syllabus for the class along with any materials pertinent to the observation, including a teaching narrative if helpful.
    • Step 5 - The observer attends class and makes notes in the Peer Observation Guide.
    • Step 6 - Observer and faculty member meet and discuss the observation. Following that discussion, the observer finalizes the peer observation and returns it to the faculty member.
    • Step 7 - The faculty member and the observer complete the brief Confirmation and Evaluation Form, sign it, and return it to the UTC either on paper or scanned and emailed.


Peer Observation Use

The faculty member can use the observation report as a means to reflect on and improve their teaching, can include it as evidence of teaching effectiveness in their evaluation and promotion materials, or can couple it with a second observation that shows improvement in teaching over time. Only the faculty member who was observed can share the report. It remains in their possession.

Volunteer to become a peer observer

Teaching practices inventory

A great deal of research has been conducted on what kind of teaching practices help students learn. While what follows was created for and has been tested in natural and social science courses, it can also be useful for gauging effective teaching practices in the arts and humanities, although departments and communities of practice might want to collaboratively tweak these tools to make them specifically appropriate for the kinds of learning students do in their courses.

This particular set of tools has been adopted from the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at the University of British Columbia. They have been widely vetted and used at a number of universities nationally and internationally. The University Teaching Center thinks these tools are best used in a community of practice when teachers take the inventory as a pre-test, read and discuss with each other some of the background research on what makes teaching effective, re-take the inventory, and then collaborate by observing each other’s courses, discussing the observations, and then reflecting on how they might improve their practices. They can, however, have some use for everyone.

If you simply want to do a quick inventory of your own teaching practices and get an immediate score, follow this link to the 'Try It Now' box in the middle of the page.

Click this button to download the Teaching Practices Inventory: Teaching Practices Inventory

If you would like to read about the development of the Teaching Practices Inventory, delve into the research that informs it, and see how it is scored, follow this link.

This inventory can be usefully coupled with an evaluation tool, called the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS). It is in excel format so that the observer can fill it in on a laptop while observing the class.

Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS)

Last Updated: 1/22/24