Teaching Observations and Consultations

Iowa State University's Beardshear and Morrill Hall during the fall season

CELT offers peer teaching observations, consultations, and student focus group facilitations, providing formative feedback with the goal of improving the effectiveness of your teaching. The observation and consultation process can be tailored to meet the desired outcomes of the individual instructor.

The Observation Process

How teaching observations and consultations work for instructors. We can all find ways to teach more effectively. The goal of these observations and consultations is improvement and reflection. It is part of a continual process of professional development.

  1. Initiate a request by emailing celt@iastate.edu and include the subject “Teaching Observation and Consultation Request” along with the following in the message:
    1. Name
    2. Department
    3. Course name and number you wish to have observed
    4. Possible course meeting times and locations for observation
  2. You will receive a confirmation email from ServiceNow for easy tracking, and a CELT faculty development representative will contact you to schedule a pre-observation and consultation meeting.
  3. Attend the scheduled pre-observation and consultation meeting to discuss the following:
    1. The professional development outcomes you would like to achieve through observations and consultations.
    2. Class structure and the desired student learning outcomes.
    3. The particular elements of the class that the observer should pay special attention to (i.e., areas of strengths, innovations, or concern).
    4. Agree upon a schedule for visiting the class and for a post-observation consultation.
    5. As appropriate for the feedback sought, the instructor may be asked to provide access to the Canvas course, course materials, or student ratings of teaching information.
  4. The observer visits your class.
  5. During the post-visit consultation, intended to be an exchange of ideas between peers, please expect to discuss what went well and brainstorm ideas for possible improvements. The observer will provide additional resources as appropriate.
  6. It is often helpful for both the observer and the instructor to arrange a second class visit and follow-up consultation to provide additional opportunities for formative feedback. Multiple visits also provide opportunities to observe course elements such as class discussions or exam reviews.
  7. You will receive a summary that is formative from your observer. This summary may include the following:
    1. Name of instructor observed, course title, date(s) of class observation(s)
    2. Summaries of observation and consultation discussions, including exemplary elements of the class and ideas for improvements you may want to implement in the future.
    3. Additional resources for possible future course modifications
  8. Instructors are encouraged to engage often with CELT resources and programming. Engagement with CELT includes, but is not limited to, workshops, web resources, and arranging for additional course observations and consultations.

Note that these observations and consultations are designed to be formative, not evaluative. Any documentation is the property of the instructor being observed and may be used to document professional development.

Student Focus Group Facilitations

Students provide invaluable feedback about their courses and instructors’ teaching methods. As a part of the observation process or as a distinct component, CELT staff can utilize a student focus group, also called Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID), to provide anonymized student feedback about what is going well in class and potential improvements.

CELT staff can work with you to facilitate a student focus group in your class at any point during the semester following these steps:

  1. Pre-Focus Group Conversation: The CELT staff member discusses the context of, goals for, and the date of the focus group session.
  2. Facilitation: The CELT staff member will facilitate the focus group session during a portion of the class period which may range from 15 to 30 minutes depending on the class size, with larger classes requiring more student response time. To maintain student anonymity and receive honest, constructive feedback, you are requested not to be present during the focus group session. Students work in small groups to complete the Student Focus Group form (docx).
  3. Post-Focus group Conversation: The CELT staff member synthesizes the students’ feedback, identifies themes, and compiles the responses into a summary report.
  4. Next Class Session: After the post-focus group conversation, it is important to thank the students for providing feedback and state a couple of themes and ideas that you are carefully considering. This step ensures students that taking the time to provide feedback is beneficial to their learning.

Note for Department Chairs

Sometimes, a department or program chair becomes aware of a need for teaching-related consultation and mentorship outside the academic home. CELT provides teaching observations and consultations as a part of a plan for faculty professional development. Effective instruction is multifaceted, and CELT’s goal is to provide assistance in this process. There is no one-time solution, but rather an iterative and integrated professional development program that CELT can assist with.

If a teaching observation and consultation is recommended to a faculty member, we request that the faculty member contact CELT directly. A CELT faculty development representative may contact the department chair to seek additional context. The observation and consultation process will utilize a framework like the one described above.