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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 (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

If you’d like to observe the course for more than one time period (e.g., once during Week 6 and once during Week 12 of the semester), you’ll need to sign up and go through the process again.

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 (faucette@).