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Ask Dr. Shore...

About Classroom Observations

Dear Dr. Shore,
After attending a parent-teacher conference, I did not come away with a good idea of what was happening in my daughter's class. I requested -- and have been granted -- permission to observe the class. Would you give me some idea of what to look for during the observation?

Learn More

For more information about what to look for while observing in your child's classroom, see the sample Parent Observation Guide from ASSIST.
For more information about parent involvement in schools, see Parent Involvement in Schools.

Conferences offer only a limited picture of what's happening in a child's classroom -- and children are notoriously poor reporters of school activities. Both your request to observe and the school's granting permission are laudable.

During the observation, be as unobtrusive as possible and avoid making suggestions or providing assistance to the teacher. Remember that you are there to observe, not participate. Before leaving, find something positive to say to the teacher and express your appreciation.

The following list should help you identify what to look for during the observation.

  • Does the classroom environment seem conducive to learning?
  • Are the teaching materials interesting?
  • Do the students appear eager and motivated?
  • Is the teacher warm, enthusiastic, and cheerful?
  • Does the teacher treat children with respect and take their questions and comments seriously?
  • Is the teacher positive, encouraging, and free of sarcasm?
  • Is the teacher patient and helpful in dealing with children who have difficulties?
  • Does the teacher try to draw out more reluctant students?
  • Does the teacher seem to have comparable expectations for boys and girls?
  • Has the teacher established and posted classroom rules? Do students seem to know the rules and routines of the classroom?
  • Does the teacher set and stick to reasonable limits? Do the students respect them? Is the teacher firm without screaming?
  • Does the teacher have a mastery of the material?
  • Does the teacher communicate clearly? Is the goal of the lesson clear to students?
  • Does the teacher monitor students' understanding of assignments?
  • Does the teacher teach at a level appropriate to the students and adapt instruction to the needs of individual students?
  • Are there more than one reading and math group to accommodate students of different skill levels?
  • Does the teacher use a variety of teaching methods?
  • Does the teacher relate the lessons to the students' interests and concerns?
  • Does the teacher encourage questions and comments from students and respond supportively?
  • Does the teacher help students learn to think critically?
  • Does the teacher give helpful feedback to students on written work?
  • Does the teacher use class time wisely or spend too much time engaged in non-instructional activities?

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist who has worked in various public schools for more than 25 years. He has authored six books and produced a book and video series on bullying for schools and parent organizations called The ABCs of Bullying Prevention. Click to read a complete bio. For information on how to obtain his books and videos, go to his Web site.