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Procedures for Observing ELI Classes

Every semester, ELI classes are observed by a number of people, including ELI administrative staff, ELI teachers, students in the Department of Second Language Studies, and other visiting language professionals.

Because the number of these requests is so large, we have had to limit  the number of times any one class section or teacher can be observed. All interested observers from outside of the ELI (non- ELI faculty) must first receive permission for their observation by the ELI Director. Therefore, it is recommended that you contact her sooner rather than later.

Photo: ELI

Before approaching the ELI Director (and later an ELI teacher), to ask about observing classes, it’s important to determine the purpose of your observation. Is it for research purposes, or is it truly just an observation? It is assumed that, if this is just an observation, any recordings or notes taken will not be used for research and will not be made public in any form. Otherwise, it is considered a research project, and in these cases, you need to follow different procedures, as shown on Policies and Procedures for Conducting Research in the ELI.

If your observation is not for research purposes, follow these steps:

  1. Contact ELI Director Priscilla Faucette (faucette@) for recommendations and to receive permission to approach a teacher. Do not approach the teacher directly.
  2. Read the Guidelines and Etiquette for Observers of ELI Classes (as outlined below).
  3. Contact one of the teachers recommended and approved by Priscilla in order to explain the purpose of your visit and ask for their permission to observe their class.  The teacher may or may not be able to grant your request.

If you have any questions, contact Priscilla.

Guidelines and Etiquette for Observers

The policies, procedures, and considerations for observing ELI classes, both online and on-campus, are listed below.

Before Observing

  • Contact ELI Director Priscilla Faucette ( for recommendations and to receive permission to approach a teacher.
    • If you are observing a class for research purposes, you will also need to submit a proposal and follow the policies and procedures for conducting research in the ELI. Please see the ELI research guidelines.
  • Once approved, you may contact the teacher directly to ask permission to observe their class, explaining your purpose for observing.  It’s the instructor’s right to decide whether or not you can visit their class.
  • Before the observation, check with the teacher to see if they would like to meet with you in advance and if they are willing to meet with you after. Being informed about the class in advance could help you to make more sense of what goes on in the classroom.
  • Other things to double-check with the teacher prior to the observation are:
    • when to observe. Ask for a time in the semester that is convenient for the teacher.
    • where you should sit in the classroom.
    • whether they will introduce you to the students or you should briefly introduce yourself.
    • whether or not it’s all right to move around from group to group during group-work activities.
    • whether or not you are going to participate in activities or just observe. Generally speaking, it’s  preferable not to participate while doing an observation.

During the observation

  • Arrive before the class starts (not at the moment the class begins) and wait outside until the teacher arrives and directs you where to sit. Stay throughout the entire class period.
  • No matter how cooperative the observer may be, observations are an imposition on the teacher and the students.  Keep in mind that the observation should be a positive experience for both the observer and the instructor and students.
  • It is the teacher’s class, not yours. This seems obvious, but sometimes it’s easy to form impressions, without even realizing it, that may not fit with the context or the teacher’s goals.
  • Don’t do things that disrupt the flow of the class or draw attention to yourself. Be as discreet as possible.
  • If the teacher is comfortable with having you move from group to group during group-work activities, it’s better to eavesdrop inconspicuously than to join the group.
  • When the class has ended, thank the teacher (and, if possible, the students) for allowing you to observe them.

Debriefing (optional)

  • If the teacher agrees to meet with you for a debriefing, it’s a good chance for you to ask any clarifying questions you might have and to learn from the experience.
  • Debriefing should be done as soon as is feasible after the class session, while the events are still fresh in mind but at the teacher’s convenience.
  • In a non-evaluative way,  you may ask questions to clarify some things that happened in the class. For example: “I’m very interested in learning more about XXXX. Could you explain why you set up the XXXX activity the way you did?” perhaps followed by “How do you think it went?”
  • If you are a novice instructor observing someone with a great deal of teaching experience, it’s even more important to approach the debriefing from the perspective of finding out why the instructor made the choices they did, which can provide you with a number of insights to inform your own teaching.

And After All is Done

  • If you write a report or paper that is informed by the observation, it is considered common courtesy to offer the instructor a copy.
  • A short message thanking the instructor for allowing you to observe is a thoughtful gesture.

Other considerations

IMPORTANT: Any materials, lesson plans, assignments, etc. found on the course website are the property of the ELI. Therefore, they are not to be altered or distributed or used for purposes other than those of the ELI course.

If you have any questions about any of these policies, please contact the ELI Director, Priscilla Faucette (

Revised June, 2023