Essay: Classroom Observation Quality Questioning Is Fast

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Classroom Observation

Quality questioning is fast becoming one of the operative pedagogical techniques in the contemporary classroom. Ever since Benjamin Bloom in the 1950s and the taxonomy of learning, teachers have been encouraged to use questioning to buttress core subjects and engage students. Nathan Bond, however, suggests that classroom management problems occur under two circumstances: 1) If students are dissatisfied with the material or bored they tend to manifest off-task behavior and, 2) If students are unclear about the particular expectations that the teacher has, or the lesson needs. In general, then, quality questioning keeps students on task, engaged, and because they are being asked to think about more than just facts, they will have far less time or energy to get off task and misbehave (Zukerman, 2007). Taking this paradigm to its logical evolution, then, if quality questioning protocols are the appropriate mechanism to engage higher level thinking within the classroom; to move students into a direction that is beyond rote and into synthesis and analysis, then it would seem that this protocol be appropriate for teacher development as well.

Classroom observation is certainly not a new protocol, it has been used for years to understand and evaluate both teacher performance and student interaction. It is not just a technique for appraisal; parents may be invited into schools to observe a classroom, members of the community may be interested in certain teaching methods, and even other teachers in both mentor and apprentice roles use classroom observation as a tool to understand methodology, protocol, interaction, pacing, lesson planning, and in many ways, a more detailed and myopic view of individual student issues. Classrooms are, by their very nature, robust, busy places that have a number of dynamics present at almost all times. Despite this, and the fact that for years the "classroom," particularly in the elementary school, was seen as the private domain of the teacher, the 21st century has brought changes that tend to push for more systematic teacher appraisal and lesson evaluation, greater emphasis on the development of best practices and professional skills for new teachers, honing those of experienced teachers, and even increased interest in the classroom process by those who are charged with new curriculum ideas. In fact, the use of classroom observation as a developmental tool on a number of levels results in such emphasis that "skillfully handled classroom observation can benefit both the observer and the person observed, serving to inform and enhance the professional skill of both people" (Wragg, 1999, p.3).

Thus, the idea of classroom observation is something that should be engendered by both teachers and administrators as a tool for development. There are a variety of approaches to observation, and the methodology should suit the purposes of the exercise -- be it evaluation, curriculum development, or research. However, of vital importance is to understand that the classroom is dynamic, and that theoretical models aside, there is no single "correct" way to manage a classroom, nor to observe. Rather, what is important to emphasize is the appropriateness of the instruction, feedback, and learning environment to that particular lesson, that particular population of students, that particular subject on that particular day (Saginor, 2008).

Observation Protocol Database-

1) Arizona Charter School Association

2) CETP Core Evaluation -

3) CLASS Protocol for Classroom Observations

4) Clustering Classroom Observation Protocol (RTOP)

5) MCC Classroom Observation Protocol

6) PEP Classroom Observation Protocol

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7) University of Texas (Austin) Classroom Observation Protocol-

Observation Protocols and Analysis




Arizona Charter Schools

Developed to allow for a greater level of partnership between teachers and observers.

Designed to qualitatively increase shared beliefs within classroom between observers and instructors. Gives teachers a better understanding of what is deemed effective.


Primarily developed for Science classrooms in K-12 programs; use as a quantitative tool for teacher development.

Criterion referenced instrument that describes and rates classroom activities.

CLASS Protocol

Used as both an evaluative tool for administrators and as a developmental tool for the classroom teacher to actively participate in their own assessment.

Video capturing seeks to demystify effective teaching practices.

Clustering (RTOP)

Primarily for math and science, developed as a standardized means of detecting efficacy in classrooms.

Uses national standards in math and science education as well as specific teacher protocol within evaluations.


Allows for both qualitative (video or audio) and quantitative based assessment.

Encourages dialog between teacher and observer. Highly democratic in tone.


Primarily for K-8 development, more quantitative in construction with specific requirements for each lesson.

Focuses on learning methodologies (manipulatives, instructional materials, etc.)

UT- Austin

More quantitative in tone, rates effectiveness of lesson in relation to student population in class.

Allows for individual observer to add criteria or even rate criteria in importance based on the specific observation.


Arizona Charter School Association -- Provides a well-thought out and developed research protocol for helping observers get the most out of the classroom experience. Designed to improve instruction, create dynamism between parties, and lower the level of stress and any potential antagonism within the observational structure. It is designed to assess classroom management, curriculum, student cognition, student/teacher engagement, differentiated instruction, content knowledge, effectiveness of questioning, and particularly cooperative learning. Broad based approach with many, longer-term uses.

CETP -- More of an approach to long-term classroom observation and teacher quality improvement. constructed through the selection of items from several classroom observation forms. Items selected were those that had been shown to be predictive of standards-based instruction and positive student outcomes. Sources used included Horizon Research, Inc. (1999); the Arizona Collaborative for Excellence in Teacher Preparation (ACEPT, 2000); Evaluation of the Long-Term Effect of Teacher

Enhancement project (1999); the Constructing Physics Understanding Evaluation project (2001) and the Systemic Initiatives Evaluation project (2001). Although the COP was intended for use in observing mathematics and science classrooms as part of the CETP Core Evaluation, it may be easily adapted for use in other settings.

The COP is a criterion-referenced instrument for describing and rating classroom activities in K-16 STEM settings. To effectively and reliably use the instrument, the observer must have enough rating experience so that he or she understands the standards-based criteria underlying every item. The protocol has several parts. First is a description of the general demographics of the classroom including items such as type of course, numbers of students, and adequacy of the physical environment. The next part describes the instruction in terms of purpose (with interviews of the teacher) and in terms of the major activity occurring in each five- minute interval of the observation. The type of activity is coded along with the level of student cognitive activity and engagement. The last two sections are evaluative ratings of the lesson and its overall quality. It is important that all sections be completed to provide an accurate 'snapshot' of the classroom being observed. Possibly the most sophisticated and useful of all the methods simply because it is completely adaptive to individual needs.

CLASS -- Qualitative in nature, used a strong emphasis on video taping. The method of video capture and review designed for the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project seeks to demystify effective teaching practices in the classroom and, in turn, provide insights into teacher evaluation and professional development. The video footage recorded during the MET project is watched and coded by highly trained, independent raters. Many of the raters are current or former teachers, some with National Board Certification in subjects they are assigned to watch. These raters are managed and trained by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to observe the videos and rate the teaching practice on a series of indicators ranging from the teacher's ability to establish a positive learning climate and manage the classroom to his or her ability to explain concepts and provide useful feedback to students. ETS is training approximately 500 experts to rate more than 23,000 hours of videotaped lessons using one or more of the following observation protocols:1. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) measure developed at the University of Virginia; 2. The Framework for Teaching (FFT) developed by Charlotte Danielson; 3. The Mathematical Quality of Instruction (MQI) developed at the University of Michigan and Harvard University 4. The Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observation (PLATO) developed at Stanford University5. The Quality Science Teaching (QST) developed at Stanford University. Scoring is robust and compared to a national database, which allows the individual teacher a better understand of whether they are in their professional development.

Clustering (RTOP) - The Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol was developed as an observation instrument to provide a standardized means for detecting the degree to which K-20 classroom instruction in mathematics or science is reformed. The developers did NOT presume that reformed instruction is necessarily quality instruction. Rather, we left that as a hypothesis to be examined and tested in and across various reformed settings. The protocol is based on fairly vigorous research from several studies (Horizon research, MCTM, Professional Teaching Standards), and organized into Lesson Design,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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