Skip to main content

Teaching Observation

What is a teaching observation?

Our classroom observation service has two components. First, a CFT teaching consultant observes you teach during a class session of your choosing.  Second, you meet with the teaching consultant a few days later and discuss the class session observed.  This discussion is not intended to be judgmental, but only as a supportive way to help you reflect upon your teaching, identify your strengths as a teacher, and consider possible areas for improvement.


Who can request a teaching observation?

Any faculty member, graduate student, or post-doc teaching at Vanderbilt can request a teaching observation.  This is a free service the CFT provides to the Vanderbilt teaching community.

(Please note that teaching observations are required for participants in the CFT’s Certificate in College Teaching.)


How will a teaching observation benefit me?

The purpose of a teaching observation and consultation is to help you become a more reflective and intentional teacher.  By observing one of your class sessions, your consultant will be able to discuss your teaching with you in very concrete ways.  Your consultant will help you reflect on the teaching choices you made during the class session and on your understanding of your students and their learning.  Your consultant will also help you generate ideas for different teaching choices you might make in the future to help you more effectively meet your teaching objectives.  Moreover, your consultant will be able to get a sense of your class as a student might see it and share that perspective with you.


Who will my teaching consultant be?

If you’re a faculty member, you’ll likely meet with your CFT liaison, a staff member with some familiarity with the teaching landscape in your discipline.  If you’re a graduate student, you’ll meet with one of our staff dedicated to graduate student instruction with experience teaching here at Vanderbilt.


What will happen on the day of the observation?

On the day of the observation, your consultant will arrive a few minutes before class begins.  Your consultant will sit in the back or side of your class and be as unobtrusive as possible.  You may want to briefly explain your consultant’s presence to your students, but this is not required.

During the observation, your consultant may be considering questions such as the following:

  • What is the mood before class?  During class?  At the end of class?
  • How is the classroom physically arranged and how does this influence teaching and learning?
  • How does the teacher use verbal and non-verbal communication?
  • How is the class organized and paced?
  • What types of questions does the teacher ask and when?
  • How does the teacher use classroom media (chalk boards, PowerPoint, etc.)?
  • How does the teacher motivate students and how do they respond?
  • What do the students do during class?
  • In what ways to students participate in class discussions or ask or response to questions?
  • What sorts of concerns do the students seem to have and how do they express them?


What will happen after the observation?

A few days after the observation, you will meet with your consultant to discuss the class session as well as other aspects of your teaching.  The consultation is intended to help you become a more reflective and intentional teacher, using the particular class session observed to provide concrete examples of teaching and learning processes to discuss.  To that end, your consultant will likely spend much of the time asking you questions about how you approach your teaching, what you find challenging, the decisions you made before and during the class session observed, and your thoughts on ways you can better meet your teaching goals.


How can I arrange a teaching observation?

To arrange a teaching observation, call the CFT at 615-322-7290 or email Juliet Traub at It is helpful for you have identified a choice of a few dates for potential observations. Observations are scheduled based on the availability of staff during the time that you request. Staff are not available for off-campus observations. We recommend contacting us as early in the semester as possible to get your most preferred choice of dates and times.


Where can I direct further questions about teaching observations?

If you have questions about our teaching observation service, call the CFT at 615-322-7290.

Image: “FBI Classroom,” Bill Erickson, Flickr (CC)