teacher working with a young student in a classroom

As September begins, and so do classroom observations, we want to take the time to remind you of six key recommendations about the classroom observation process.

If you will be starting the school year online or in a hybrid format, please download our guide “Adaptability and Growth: Evaluating Effective Teaching in Remote Learning Environments” for recommendations and resources for conducting the observation process in remote settings.

Recommendation 1: Select 3-5 Priority Indicators

NEE recommends schools select three to five priority indicators to measure during observations. Think of the three to five indicators you are observing in the classroom as the postal service: Come rain, shine, wind, or snow – they are delivered. These are the indicators of effective teaching practices that are the expected deliverables of every classroom every minute of every day. They are the teaching practices that are at the core of every learning environment to provide the best possible environment for students in your building.

Recommendation 2: Observe Teachers 6-10 Times Per Year

We recommend observing each classroom six to ten times per year. Observing each classroom six to ten times per year for each teacher provides the opportunity for six to ten one-on-one conversations focused on teaching in that classroom. It gives a chance for leaders and teachers to talk about successes, unique features, and how effective teaching practices are employed during instruction.

Recommendation 3: Play the Referee – Stay Neutral

Before and during the observation, remember to play the role of the referee. Be neutral in your approach and in your evidence collection. Use the language of the rubrics to help guide that neutrality. Find the evidence that shows a certain percentage of time and/or students who are interacting with each effective teaching practice you are measuring.

As you begin the classroom observation, start at a score of 3 on the scoring rubric for each indicator to help you maintain neutrality. Starting higher may positively bias your perceptions, while starting lower may negatively bias your perceptions.

As the observation continues, walk around, move to different parts of the classroom, and engage with the observation in different ways. When appropriate, ask questions or engage in conversations with students or the teacher about what is happening and why it is occurring. Also be on the lookout for numerous ways to collect evidence of the effective teaching practices.

Most importantly, remember the key triggers based on collected evidence: the percentage of time that each effective teaching practice was deployed and/or the percentage of students involved in the effective teaching practice during the observation.

Recommendation 4: Score After the Observation

Because the concrete descriptors of the rubric are based on the percentage of time and/or students involved in each of the observed teaching practices, it is crucial to only enter scores after the observation is complete. Observe in full, collect evidence throughout the observation, and then score only after you are done collecting the evidence.

Recommendation 5: Think of the “Score” as a Shorthand Measurement

What does “scoring” mean in NEE?

Scoring is providing the definition of what occurred in the classroom during the observation. The numbers are shorthand for the actual goings-on of the classroom. They are not indicative of effectiveness and should not be treated as such. Instead, they provide the quick definition of the frequency with which a teaching practice occurred during the observation or the number of students engaged with that teaching practice. 

Scores are not meant to be subjective nor qualitative. They are meant to be measures of – and only of – the percentage of time and/or number of students involved. The definitions are designed to take the judgement out of the evaluation process and to provide a snapshot of what was occurring during the observation itself.

This is an important point to communicate clearly with teachers as well. Remind teachers frequently during the year, and especially after every observation, that the score is a shorthand way to measure what was observed.

Recommendation 6: Provide Feedback Within 24 hours

We say this often, but it is an essential belief for NEE: Provide face-to-face feedback in a conversational manner within 24 hours of each observation. Be prepared for that conversation, and be mindful of how you want to structure the conversation. Review our Guide to Effective Feedback Conversations. Work in a collaborative manner with the teacher on continuing effective teaching practices in the classroom and the importance behind them. Be an active listener, and find the small ways to build capacity and teacher efficacy in their own teaching practice.

We observe to collect evidence. We collect evidence to provide a better understanding of what is occurring in the classroom on the core teaching practices we want to have in each classroom. We have those core teaching practices to provide the best possible learning environment for each student. That is the core mission of the classroom observation process. It is one that should be an enjoyable process, a process that encourages growth, and a process that strengthens the school culture and collective efficacy for all.  

The Network for Educator Effectiveness (NEE) is a simple yet powerful comprehensive system for educator evaluation that helps educators grow, students learn, and schools improve. Developed by preK-12 practitioners and experts at the University of Missouri, NEE brings together classroom observation, student feedback, teacher curriculum planning, and professional development as measures of effectiveness in a secure online portal designed to promote educator growth and development.