What is an observational checklist?

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What is an observational checklist?
Classroom observation may help teachers to improve their instructional techniques. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

An observational checklist is most often used to evaluate the procedures that an instructor uses when teaching her class. An effective observer is unobtrusive and makes notations based on the things he sees. The checklist provides the structure by which the observer can make his evaluations and also gives the teacher an idea of the criteria with which she will be observed.

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Physical Environment

A common item on an observational checklist is the physical features of the classroom. This describes the size of the class, the lighting, how the seats are positioned, the equipment available -- such as audio/visual devices and computers -- the temperature and any outside noise that can be heard inside the classroom. It also describes any educational items taped to the walls that help to promote learning, such as pictures and illustrations or assignments by previous students.

Student Behavior

An observational checklist often includes a section to assess student behaviour during a class session. Common criteria includes whether students appear interested in the lesson; whether they seem to understand the concepts being taught; their ability to listen and respond to the material being taught; the appropriateness of their responses to questions the teacher asks; and the kinds of questions they pose during the session. Student reaction to a teacher's instructional style is a key aspect of an observational checklist as it can help to identify problem areas that may obstruct effective learning.

Lesson Structure

The process by which a teacher conducts a lesson is an important aspect of a checklist. The observer notes how he prepares the class for the day's lesson and if he writes material on the chalkboard, hands out reference material or uses a textbook. She also notes the manner in which the teacher begins the lesson and whether he gives a clear introduction into the day's subject matter. The observation process also includes writing down the way he lectures, how he breaks down material and whether he lets students ask questions or gets them involved in what he is teaching.

Teaching Techniques

The checklist has a section on the techniques the teacher employs to motivate students to learn, including his use of visual aids such as slides, films and props to engage the students and keep their attention. The observer also states whether the teacher uses methods like dividing the class into smaller groups to facilitate activities that help students to work on study problems; or if he uses a reward system to encourage participation as well as the effect in encouraging students to during a lesson.

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