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Formative Classroom Observations for New Faculty

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

New Engineering Educators Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.789.1 - 26.789.19



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Paper Authors


Laura D Hahn University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Laura Hahn is Director of the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. She specializes in instructional development and intercultural communication.

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Chris Migotsky University of Illinois

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Chris Migotsky is the Coordinator of Faculty Teaching Programs within the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois. He also has college-level academic advising duties with undergraduate students from all departments. He focuses on faculty development, curriculum change, and assessment and evaluation related to teaching and learning.

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Formative Classroom Observations for New FacultyThis paper reports on a classroom observation program for first-year engineering facultymembers: its principles, its structure, its distinctive attributes, and its impact. This program, designed to provide formative feedback to faculty about their teaching, is grounded in principlesbased on the work of Buskit, Ismail and Groccia (2014) and Chism (2007). Our philosophy isbased on the Latin word for assessment: assidere, which means, “to sit beside.” We approachthese observations as an opportunity for coaching and working alongside a new faculty memberin the spirit of support, not for summative evaluation.An initial pre-observation meeting enables the observers to understand the faculty member’sinstructional context and any areas of concern. During the class visit, pairs of trained observerstake field notes guided by a set of pedagogical concepts (organization, delivery, interaction, etc.)and videotape the instructor. Afterwards, the observers confer and write up their comments, andthe observed instructor writes a brief self-reflection. A post-observation meeting consists of adialog about the strengths of the instructor and ways to address areas of concern.This program is distinct from many others in the way it designates and coordinates the observers.First, each observation is done in pairs; this provides more than one perspective, and thus a richerinterpretation, of the class dynamics. Second, the identity and pairing of the observers are alsounique. One observer is always an instructional development specialist with a background ineducation and/or communication. The second observer is either another engineering facultymember or an engineering student – always from a different engineering department than thefaculty member being observed. Faculty members volunteer their time to observe one or twonew faculty per semester. The student observers are part of a college-wide organization calledSCOTs: Student Consultants on Teaching. All observers participate in a one-hour trainingsession that includes an overview of the principles and materials for the observation, as well as ashort practice observation.Impact of the observation program on both the observers and the new faculty will be reported.Survey results will show perspectives from both the new faculty and the observers and willemphasize impact on their professional development, usefulness for improving teaching, andaspects of the process that were perceived as most beneficial. Focus groups with the observerswill provide additional evidence of impact on the volunteers, including enriched professionalrelationships with the new faculty and each other. Components of the observation process thatrequire change and further attention will be highlighted so other engineering campuses canpotentially adopt our program smoothly and successfully.In addition to direct impact on new faculty and the observers themselves, we will discuss theunintended consequences of this formative observation program on official tenure and promotionprocesses in our engineering college departments.Keywords: Classroom observation, faculty development, teaching improvement

Hahn, L. D., & Migotsky, C. (2015, June), Formative Classroom Observations for New Faculty Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24126

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015