CLASSROOM OBSERVATIONS -- What Will You Look For?

These observation assignments are designed to help you have a more productive learning experience when you do your 30-40 hours of observations. I would hope that you will all get a chance to help out in class - take attendance, work with small groups of students, grade some student work, perhaps help out with a lab or lesson. In addition to any teaching opportunities you might have, I also want you to do some focused observations. That is the point of this assignment.

In addition to the types of assignments listed here, you will also have a checklist of "typical activities" that you need to complete in the schools. Remember that you will be evaluated by the teacher(s) you visit so be sure to spend several class periods with a single teacher.

You will also be writing 3 vignettes about what you see in the classroom. My goal with those assignments is to get you to focus on issues of concern to you. The assignment also helps you reflect upon what you see in the classroom. A full description of this is in the packet handed out in class.

Classroom teaching is a complex enterprise, with a very large number of interacting variables at play. Because of this, classroom observation becomes highly challenging. The first thing you have to do -- if you are going to avoid the trap of dealing only in vague generalities ("nice lesson", "it went smoothly", and such) — is acknowledge that complexity. The next step is to realize that you will have to isolate one or two variables (at most) and focus primarily on these. During another observation you can always focus your attention on a different subset of variables.

With that in mind, here are some of the kinds of things one might look for in a classroom observation: (Please note due dates for these observations on the syllabus.You do not have to complete each of these - some are assigned and others are 'free choice'. We will use data you collect during your observations in class.)

Your classroom observation log will have several components. The main portion of your note taking is personal. This part of the log will not be turned in. You will have several assignments that will be turned in. Directions and rationale for observation assignments are found in the course pack.
Teacher Verification Log  Teacher signature chart (located in course pack)

Checklist of Activities Performed list of activities you are required to perform and those I'd like you to do

Reflective Journaling Vignettes (3 total )
A reflective vignette is a brief written description of a classroom event. The vignette describes events that give rise to a dilemma. The vignette is written in three parts: the body is written first, the question second, and the title third. The body consists of a brief description of a single classroom event (one page or less). It tells what happened, how the teacher responded, what was seen, heard and felt. It includes no evaluative comments. The question brings into focus the particular problem that the student has experienced. The title focuses the problem to a single word or phrase. [see course pack for an example and rationale for this assignment]

You will have several observation assignments to complete during your 45 hours of field work.
Completion of the field work activities checklist
Map of the classroom
Teaching Vignettes - 3 critical incidents which you observe and have questions about
Questioning strategies data keeping
Case study of a student
Case study of the school/district
        Principal/Asst. Principal Interview
Piaget Interviews - protocol & materials to be checked out from me

At least 4 assignments to be selected from the menu below: (descriptions for each observation are below and in your coursepack. Data collection sheets are also in your coursepack.)

Gender equity
Use of manipulatives
Use of technology
Distractions
Write the teacher's lesson plan (based on what you observe)
Developmental Flow of the lesson/unit
Interpersonal Interactions
Type of interaction
Use of chalkboard/overhead, handouts & tests, use of textbook
Assignments & grading
Science as theory or fact (nature of science issues)


Map of The Room: Draw a map of the classroom. This is especially important to do in the middle school science classroom as the room might not be a dedicated science room.

How is it (or is it not) conducive to learning? What kind of a learning environment is it? What "signs" do you see in the room that science is taught & learned here? comfortable learning environment? seating arrangements? What does what you see in the room tell you about what usually happens there? How valid are your inferences?

Safety Issues: Where are is safety equipment in this room? (fire extinguishers, sinks eye wash, fire blankets, hoods) As you look around the room what are the danger points in the room?

These questions are ones you should consider whenever a teacher does a demonstration or students are doing a lab. What things that happen are potentially of danger to students? What does the teacher do to help prevent accidents?



External Factors: How many interruptions during the class period? For what? By whom? How much instructional time becomes "non-instructional" time? How does the teacher deal with these unasked for interruptions?

"Discipline" What things does the teacher say or do to establish the "tone" of the classroom? What factors contribute to making the classroom an effective learning environment? If an "event" occurs -- how did it develop? What did the student(s) do? What did the teacher do? Not do?



Use of Questions: What types of questions were asked? By whom? Who responds? How often? Were they of variable difficulty? What happens to the responses of the students? Responses of the teacher?

Some uses of questions in instruction: recall data/facts; establish the student's background of information; focusing instruction; summarizing; to arouse interest; to increase student involvement; curiosity; to punish; to embarrass; to evaluate . Notice the use (or lack of use) of "Wait Time" (see the paper by Mary Budd Rowe for an understanding of this)



Gender Issues in the Classroom: This observation form will help you become more aware of gender and racial biases in the classroom. Most teachers are unaware of difference in treatment of their students because they don't analyze what they say/do. Are all students treated equally? Are there patterns to how a teacher interacts with the students? Is sexist or racist language used? What effect might that have on students in the class?


"Developmental flow" of the Lesson: What components are present, and what is their sequence of occurrence? For example:
Interpersonal Interactions: What is the "flow" of classroom communication? Primarily from teacher to students? How much communication moves in the reverse direction? How much exists between students? Appropriateness" of that flow?

What is the role of the teacher in this lesson? (i.e., source of all the information? facilitator? or what?) What evidence is there to indicate the degree to which students are actively involved in learning?



Type of Interaction: Lecture, lab or workshop, lecture-demonstration, supervised study, discussion, review lesson are examples of categories (this is merely a broad classification; therefore, not particularly useful, except to "label" the lesson).

Use of Learning Aids and Manipulatives: audio-visual materials? demonstration materials? models? charts/maps? live/preserved specimens? How effective do the materials seem to be? Evidence? How else might these materials have been used? Might some others have been used with greater impact?



Use of Chalkboard/Overhead Projector: Legible? Visible? Make sense? What might have been done differently? Does the teacher follow the 'rules & guidelines' suggested in the handout I gave you?

Handouts, Test, etc. How helpful are they? How do they contribute to learning? Legible? Understandable? (get copies for possible future analysis)

Use of the Textbook: Does it "dominate" what happens in class? How is it used? For what purposes? How often? How helpful is it? Do students appear to like it? Does the teacher share strategies for success with students?



Assignments: When given? What? Why? What happens to it afterward? Clear purpose? How does it relate to enhancing learning? Realistic expectations? Student reactions?

Grading: How is it handled? Student reactions? How does the teacher feel about his/her grading procedures?



Science as theory or fact?: Is theory presented as theory, or as fact? Is there an "investigative" mood in the classroom (let's find out!)? Is there a focus on doing science (as opposed to reading about it, talking about it, etc)? Is the focus on "product" or "process"? What proportion of effort on each? Is this class consistent/at odds with the Nature of Science?

OBSERVATION SHEET: USE OF LEARNING AIDS AND MANIPULATIVES

COURSE NAME:                                                    DATE:

Are audio-visual materials used? How?

Are demonstrations done? When in the lesson? How easy are they to see? Do they help make ideas clearer?

Are any models used?

Are charts/maps in evidence? Used to enhance the lesson?

Are there live/preserved specimens?

How effective do the materials seem to be? What evidence do you have?

How else might these materials have been used? Might some others have been used with greater impact?

Keep a list of all the learning aids you see being used (i.e., lab equipment - be specific, rulers, scales, burners or hot plates, computers, microscopes or magnifying glasses, chemicals - be specific). Make notes about their effectiveness at aiding in student learning.

LEARNING AID            PERCEIVED EFFECTIVENESS





 POINTS TO PONDER:
1.    List observations that lead you to think that the use of these teaching techniques with learning aids was beneficial to the students:
2.    List observations that caused you to think that the use of some or all of the learning aids may not have been helpful:
3.     Imagine yourself teaching the same lesson some time in the future. What would be different and/or the same when YOU do the teaching?
 
 


OBSERVATION SHEET: USE OF QUESTIONS

PART ONE

INSTRUCTIONS: Make a list of all the questions a teacher asks in a 20 minute period. Try to record them verbatim. Try to do this observation during a section of the lesson when the teacher will be asking lots of questions. Do this observation before doing parts 2 & 3.

OBSERVATION SHEET: USE OF QUESTIONS

PART TWO

INSTRUCTIONS: To complete this exercise, you will need to observe the same teacher and the same class during a 2-3 day interval. If possible, complete one set of observations in a high school and another set in a middle school. [if you are teaching - audio tape yourself for 3 consecutive days and analyze the tape]

Make a seating chart for each class to be observed. Use the chart(s) to keep track of which student(s) are called on. Simply tabulate the data for a given period of time (15 minutes for each observation, for example) for each class, and then do the following:

1. Create a chart or some other informative way to display the data;

2. Write a short summary of your observations; what patterns did you notice?

3. List at least three (3) inferences based on your observations. Can you predict who will get called upon for different types of questions?

OBSERVATION SHEET: USE OF QUESTIONS

PART THREE

Instructions: Classroom questions can be categorized in a variety of ways and different types of questions serve different goals. You will learn more about his during the course of the single subject program. For now, consider just three fairly broad categories of questions: (1) those which are knowledge-based, (2) those that deal with applications of knowledge, and (3) those which require analysis. In this part of the observation assignment you are asked to keep track of the types of questions asked during a given period of time -- a 15-20 minute segment of a lesson. Simply tally the questions asked according to the three categories. [if you are teaching - audio tape yourself for 3 consecutive days and analyze the tape]
 
TYPE OF QUESTION
TALLY
Knowledge-based questions  
Questions requiring applications  
Questions requiring analysis  
MAKING SENSE OF THE DATA:

Under what circumstances, and for what purposes/goals, might you, as a teacher, choose to use questions of the following types:

Knowledge-based questions:

Questions requiring applications:

Questions requiring analysis:


CLASSROOM OBSERVATION: GENDER EQUITY

Instructions for completing the chart: at three different times, for a twenty-minute interval, tally and calculate the mean number and kinds of responses observed.
 
Observation
GIRLS
BOYS
Number
Responses Noted
Responses Noted
 
Number of responses
About Behavior
About Learning
Number of responses
About Behavior
About Learning
1
           
 2
           
 3
           

During each observation interval, note if the instructor uses, or does, any of the following (record in your log):
1.    Comments that suggest gender-role stereotyping (examples: "be neat like a girl", "what would your father say?")
2.    Apparent assignment of any tasks or lesson activities according to student gender.
3.    Use of sexist (or non-sexist) language in class, in handouts, or in tests. As possible, provide examples of any observed. [refer to handout from class]
4.    How encouragement of out-of-class science and/or math activities is given.
5.    Use of sexist humor. If observed, list examples. Also list any instances where a teacher might correct another person's use of sexist humor.
6.    Any instances of support which a teacher might receive for doing something different or special for girls (i.e., support from another teacher or an administrator)

OTHER ELEMENTS OBSERVED

1.    Variety and types of learning materials.
2.    Bulletin boards: information about science careers? Are students grades publicly displayed? Any information about the role of women and/or minorities in science?
3.    Student lab or other work groups: are they single-gender or mixed? If mixed, to what extent are the girls involved in setting up experiments and/or collecting data? In group problem solving, what role(s) are taken by girls & boys? Members of different racial or ethnic groups? How are group tasks assigned ? by teacher? by students?
4.    Observe the seating arrangement of the class. Make a seating chart which displays where girls & boys sit, where members of various racial or ethnic groups sit. Are their patterns? What implications do those patterns have for you as the teacher?

NOTE: This form is based in part on Kahle, J.B. (1983). Girls in School: Women in Science. Washington, DC: National Science Board, Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (No. 83-SP-0798).

INTERVIEWING SCIENCE TEACHERS

As a group we will come up with interview questions to ask the teachers you’ve observed this semester. You will submit the answers to us on disk or on e-mail so that we can compile the answers.
 
THE SCHOOL:

How many students? Teachers? Others?
How would you describe the school:

THE STUDENTS:

What are some ways you would describe the students:
What proportion finish high school?
What proportion continue school after graduating?
Where do they live?
What is your perception of their life at home or in their neighborhoods?
What strategies do you use re: discipline/management that are most effective?

THE CLASSES YOU TEACH:

Number of classes and subjects taught (classes and preps)
Ability groups of your students?
 

 

THE SCIENCE CURRICULUM IN THIS SCHOOL:

Courses offered
Enrollment in those courses
Textbook(s) used
Any special courses offered
Enrollment of boys and girls in science courses
Changes in courses / curriculum during the past 5 years SCIENCE EDUCATION TODAY

What do you see as important trends? Issues?
Changes in enrollments and/or enrollment patterns?
Professional organizations and their activities

YOUR CONCERNS

Facilities?
Materials?
Budgets?
Other concerns?

LIKES AND DISLIKES

What do you like most about science teaching?
What do you like the least about science teaching?


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