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Student Observation of Instruction

Teaching Development - Evaluation Tools

Self-Designed Form for Student Observation of Instruction


Students can tell professors what aspects of their teaching need improvement. The problem is that instructors may not ask the right questions. This form solves that problem by letting students select the items to be assembled on the instrument. Groups of items (similar to those on the peer version of this form) are provided. Giving students this option also conveys a commitment to the value and propriety of the evaluation process.

Caveat: Despite instructions to the contrary, students may use this opportunity to assemble a collection of items that form a composite of everything an instructor does wrong. Do not over react to the number of items where improvement might be indicated. This observation form contains absolutely no guarantee that the assembled instrument represents a balanced depiction of total teaching performance.

The point of the caveat is to caution instructors not to use data acquired in this way to support overall generalizations about the quality of instruction provided. Rather, the activity ought to be used as a means of getting input about aspects of instruction where one never contemplated the presence of strengths or weaknesses.


This form will accomplish its stated purpose if students are given the opportunity to select the items. Probably, the most expeditious means of accomplishing that is assigning the task to a small (5-7) student group, preferably composed of volunteers. If a large number of students indicate interest in the project, perhaps two instruments could be assembled and administered either on different occasions or to different portions of the class. Encourage students to select only enough items to fill the two-page form. This way completion of the instrument will not consume exorbitant class time.

One suggestion for balancing the student perspective with that of the instructor is to have the students select three items from each of the general areas and have the instructor select the other three items. This technique might encourage a balanced assessment and in addition, has the advantage of giving the instructor the opportunity to ask questions of particular interest.

When having the class complete the form, make sure they understand its origin. Encourage them to add comments proposing specific suggestions for improvement-or query the class generally about the propriety of the items selected-or offer them the opportunity to add evaluative items they wish had been on the form.


As already stated, general conclusions are not really appropriate outcomes of this evaluative endeavor. Rather, the activity ought to be used as an idea source and eye opener. The representativeness of the results can in part be determined by using the preceding peer version of the form or some other empirically tested instrument. Those comparisons will help put data in perspective.

We are working on a way to machine score this form to offer means and standard deviations for each of the individual items. Since some items are reversed scored, averages should not be computed across items in an individual area. Probably more valuable than calculating means is simply recording the number of responses for each rank of the scale (i.e. construct a frequency table) for each item. That will clearly show the distribution of answers, which will also give hints as to their representativeness.

If results are confusing or if it is unclear what ought to be done about them, that ought to be discussed with the class. Evaluation activities like this provide excellent opportunities to open communication channels about a course. Maybe what offends or frustrates students cannot be changed, but it can always be discussed.


This instrument was developed by The Instructional Development Program at The Pennsylvania State University. It may be copied, altered, or adapted by anyone using the form to acquire instructional input.



From the list below, select items, which will provide your instructor with the most useful feedback. Research has shown that the most effective feedback is both positive and negative. This means the items you select ought to include both instructor behaviors that need improvement and those that are done well. Your instructor will assemble the selected items on the attached instrument. This evaluation form will then be completed by the class.


  • begins class on time in an orderly, organized fashion
  • previews lecture/discussion content
  • clearly states the goal or objective for the period
  • reviews prior class material in preparation for the content to be covered
  • provides internal summaries and transitions
  • does not digress often from the main topic
  • summarizes and distills main points at the end of class
  • is well prepared for class


  • incorporates various instructional supports, e.g. slides, films, diagrams
  • uses a variety of spaces in classroom from which to present material (i.e., does not "hide" behind the podium)
  • blackboard writing is large and legible
  • speech fillers—"ok," "um," "like," "you know,"—are not distracting
  • speaks audibly and clearly
  • use of gestures is positive, not annoying
  • communicates enthusiasm and excitement toward the content
  • use of humor is positive and appropriate
  • lectures are easy to take notes from
  • difficult vocabulary is explained
  • level of language is appropriate
  • talks to the class, not the board or windows
  • varies the pace
  • does not speak in a monotone


  • acknowledges deserving student contributions
  • solicits feedback
  • requires student thought and participation
  • responds constructively to student opinions
  • knows and uses student names
  • does not deprecate ignorance or misunderstanding
  • responds to students as individuals
  • treats class members equitably
  • respects student diversity (i.e. gender, age, learning styles, culture, etc.)
  • listens carefully to comments and questions
  • recognizes when students do not understand or are confused
  • encourages mutual respect between students


  • responds to distractions effectively yet constructively
  • appears comfortable and competent with the content
  • responds confidently to student inquiries for additional information
  • uses authority in classroom to create an environment conducive to learning
  • speaks about course content with confidence and authority
  • is able to admit error and/or insufficient knowledge
  • respects constructive criticism


  • includes illustrations
  • selects examples relevant to student experiences and course content
  • integrates text material into class presentations
  • relates current course content to what's gone before and will come after
  • relates current course content to students' general education
  • makes course content relevant with references to "real world" applications
  • presents views other than own
  • seeks to apply theory to problem solving
  • helps students understand relationships among various topics and facts/theory
  • explains difficult terms, concepts, or problems in more than one way
  • presents background of ideas and concepts
  • presents pertinent concepts from related fields
  • presents up-to-date developments in the field
  • presents a Christian perspective on the course content
  • respects the multicultural nature of the course content
  • relates assignments to course content · clearly organizes assignments
  • carefully explains assignments


  • encourages questions, involvement, and debate
  • answers questions clearly and directly
  • uses rhetorical questions to gain student attention
  • provides enough time for students to respond to questions
  • refrains from answering own questions
  • responds to wrong answers constructively
  • provides ample time in which students may ask questions
  • encourages students to respond to each other's questions
  • encourages students to answer difficult questions by providing cues and encouragement
  • allows relevant student discussion to proceed uninterrupted
  • presents challenging questions to stimulate discussion
  • respects diverse points of view

ACTIVE LEARNING (items especially relevant to labs, PE activities, etc.):

  • clearly explains directions and procedures
  • clearly explains the goal of the activity
  • has readily available the materials and equipment necessary to complete the activity
  • allows opportunity for individual expression
  • provides practice time
  • gives prompt attention to individual problems
  • provides individuals constructive verbal feedback
  • careful safety supervision is obvious
  • allows sufficient time for completion
  • provides enough demonstrations
  • demonstrations are clearly visible to everyone
  • if the discovery method is employed, schedules time for discussion of results
  • required skills are not beyond reasonable expectations for the course and/or students
  • provides opportunities for dialogue about the activity with peers and/or the instructor
  • allocates sufficient clean up time within the class session

Click here to download a copy of this form.