Teaching Observations for Faculty, Staff, and Postdocs
Are you looking for confidential feedback on your teaching? Request a teaching observation for your course!
The CTL offers Teaching Observations with trained consultants who can help you think through your course goals, your teaching observation experience, and your future teaching. CTL Teaching Observations are confidential and evidence-based, developed to support instructors in their teaching practices.
Additionally, the CTL works with schools, programs, and departments seeking to refine their peer teaching observation practices. To request a consultation on refining or designing your peer teaching observation processes, please write to CTLfaculty@columbia.edu to get started.
Who can request a teaching observation?
Teaching Observations are open to all faculty, postdocs, and staff who facilitate learning in the Columbia University community. If you’re not sure if your teaching context is suitable for a teaching observation, please email us at CTLfaculty@columbia.edu. If you are a graduate student looking for a teaching observation, please visit the Teaching Observation for Graduate Students page.
Fill out the form at the link below to request a teaching observation. Any questions? Contact CTLfaculty@columbia.edu.
Associate Director, First-Year Writing Program
“Having ongoing, non-evaluative conversations about my teaching feels essential to my work; it’s these conversations that make me a better teacher and a better scholar-activist.”
How can I arrange a teaching observation?
Instructors may request to have one teaching observation per semester (subject to change based on demand). To arrange for a teaching observation, please submit the online request form at least two weeks prior to the date when you would like to be observed. Please note that observation requests will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis. A teaching observation consultant will follow up to discuss your goals for student learning and for the observation.
What happens before, during, and after the observation?
Teaching Observations provide individualized feedback on teaching, following evidence-based principles for effective learning, teaching, and inclusive engagement. The teaching observation process allows instructors to establish their course and session goals and receive feedback on the extent to which those goals have been achieved.
Process for Teaching Observations
- Step 1: Goal-setting conversation: the instructor discusses student learning and pedagogical goals with the CTL consultant to help focus the Teaching Observation, interpretations, and feedback. Prior to the goal-setting conversation, instructors are asked to share their course syllabi and other related materials to the observed class session (e.g., activities, CourseWorks Module).
- Step 2: Class observation: the class session will be observed (in-person, remotely, or via a recording link shared by the instructor) by the CTL consultant for approximately 1 hour, even if the class runs longer.
- Step 3: Post-observation consultation: instructors meet with their consultant to debrief the teaching observation experience and discuss observed evidence of effective teaching, areas for further development, and next steps.
At the conclusion of the observation process, instructors will receive a brief summary of the experience and next steps as identified by the instructor. Finally, instructors will be asked to complete a feedback survey for CTL staff to continue to improve the Teaching Observation process.
What topics can be addressed through a teaching observation?
- Establishing and meeting goals for student learning, including whether your teaching activities and methods are aligned with your stated goals for the course/course session.
- Inclusive teaching techniques, such as number and tone of faculty-student and student-student interactions, how well student voices are incorporated into the classroom, and whether there is equitable distribution of student interactions with faculty.
- Active learning and interactivity, including whether there are opportunities for students to tackle course material in hands-on, reflective, or collaborative ways and whether your questions encourage deeper engagement from students.
- Level of student engagement, such as the type of interactions between students and you and/or their peers and whether students are on task during class or activities.
- The structure and pacing of class, including whether the course content is structured in a logical way, connections are being made to previous and upcoming course content, and students are given an opportunity to process material before moving on to the next topic.
- Use of technologies in class, such as whether the technologies used help or distract from the student learning goals, and whether there are new technologies that might integrate easily into the course.
- General course climate and presentation, such as whether you present an open demeanor, use student names, and can be seen and heard by all students.
- Feedback on a new teaching method, such as a group activity, hands-on exercise, or other active learning strategy you are implementing in your class.
When should I request a teaching observation?
Teaching observations are most effective when conducted once the class has established itself and well before the end of the semester leaving enough time to implement changes.
Can you observe my in-person, hybrid/HyFlex, or online class?
Yes! You may request a teaching observation for a course delivered in any modality – in-person, hybrid/HyFlex, or online. We will work with you to determine how your CTL consultant will observe your class session – whether in-person, remotely, or they will view a recording of your synchronous session.
Should I tell my students that I’m being observed?
We generally recommend that faculty are open with students about the importance of receiving feedback in professional work (including teaching); moreover, participating in this observation service demonstrates to students your commitment to quality teaching. For full transparency, consider letting your students know that a consultant from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) will be joining your class or that you will be sharing the link to a recorded class session with a consultant to observe you (not them, your students).
Can you review my syllabus too?
Yes! Consultants will request the course syllabus prior to the goal-setting conversation to help them familiarize themselves with the course goals, content, and policies. If you’d like detailed feedback on the syllabus, your consultant can also review the syllabus as an additional component of the teaching observation service.
Can I share my observation debrief summary with my department chair / Dean?
Our summaries are confidential materials between the CTL staff and our teaching observation clients. CTL staff are not permitted to share these confidential notes with anyone outside the CTL and the client. Our summaries are not intended to serve as formal evaluation or endorsement of teaching for tenure, promotion, retention, or for inclusion in teaching portfolios, and may not be used in this manner.
I just had my teaching observation feedback session--now what?
We’re here to help you! CTL staff support faculty year-round in all matters related to teaching. If you need support implementing the feedback you received during your teaching observation, or just want to experiment with something new, your consultant can help you determine how to make changes that will have the greatest impact for you and your students.
Can I request that one of your undergraduate teaching and learning consultants observe the class session?
Yes! If you are teaching an undergraduate course and would like both the perspectives of a CTL staff consultant and an undergraduate student consultant (that are part of the CTL’s Students as Pedagogical Partners initiative), this can be arranged by request. Please include this as part of your submission when completing the online request form. Note: we will do our best to find a student consultant to partner with, though this will depend on their availability and scheduling.
The CTL is here for faculty.
The Columbia Center for Teaching and Learning provides an array of support for faculty in both their work and their professional development.