A New Classroom Observation Tool

We need better data describing what’s happening in classrooms. Faculty’s and students’ descriptions aren’t always that accurate. End-of-course rating data is highly judgmental. Classroom observation by outsiders happens irregularly, is generally evaluative, and is often colored by the observer’s perspectives. The data collected in an individual classroom is usually confidential and almost never aggregated. Given all this, what goes on in a collection of classrooms—say, those in a department or even across an institution—is pretty much a matter of speculation. Are faculty using as much active learning as they say they are? Are students taking notes, or are they texting during class?

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