Teaching Observations for Faculty, Staff, and Postdocs

Are you looking for confidential feedback on your teaching? Request a teaching observation!

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 begin the process.


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.

Federica Franze
Lecturer in the 
Department of Italian

“[The CTL’s teaching observation service] is a great chance to receive feedback in an extremely professional, detailed, helpful, and confidential way. It is a chance to reflect on your teaching practices, to be prepared to answer questions on your lesson plan and your teaching methodologies, and ultimately to improve as an instructor.”

Read more.


How can I arrange a teaching observation?

Teaching Observations are offered during the fall and spring semesters. In Fall 2018, Teaching Observations will be conducted between Monday, September 17th and Friday, November 16th, though you may request an observation beginning on August 1st, 2018. 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. A teaching observation consultant will follow up to discuss your goals for student learning and for the observation.

Please note that since teaching observations are a popular service performed by a trained CTL consultant, we limit instructors to one observation per academic year. Likewise, the scheduling is “first come, first served.” To secure your desired date, we advise you to complete the observation request form as soon as possible.


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. Faculty who have participated in a CTL Teaching Observation in a previous semester may request videorecording of subsequent observations.

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.
  • Step 2: In-class observation: class is observed 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 written consultant report, which will include a summary of the experience, feedback, and resources for further development. 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 observation are most effective when conducted between the third week of the semester (giving you and your students the chance to adjust to a new semester) and the tenth week of the semester (which allows time for you to implement any changes before the end of the term).

Can you observe my online / evening class?

Yes! Please indicate in your request form what the special context is, and your assigned consultant will discuss logistics with you during your debrief.

Should I tell my students that I’m being observed?

That’s up to you! We generally recommend that faculty are open with students about the importance of receiving feedback in professional work (including teaching); moreover, having an observer come to class can demonstrate to students your commitment to quality teaching. Keep in mind that in small classes or when an observation is videotaped, the presence of an observer will be more noticeable and an explanation may be unavoidable. We have found that simply saying you’ve invited someone from the Center of Teaching and Learning to observe you (not the students) is enough information for students.

Can I have my observation videotaped?

We offer videotaping services for faculty who have completed at least one prior CTL Teaching Observation. Videotaping gives faculty members an additional perspective on the class session, and provides a point of reference when debriefing about the session with a CTL teaching consultant. When completing the Teaching Observation request form, you will be prompted to request videotaping based on whether you’ve had a CTL Teaching Observation before. Videos created for Teaching Observations are intended to be used for formative feedback purposes and are not available for download or distribution to colleagues, students, or as part of a teaching portfolio.

If you opt for videotaping, please inform your students of the Teaching Observation process before it occurs, including discussing the purpose of the taping, that the camera will not be focused on them, and that the video is given only to the faculty member for teaching feedback. If they are uncomfortable with the taping, suggest that they sit close to the video camera to ensure that they are not in the video.

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 debrief report with my department chair / Dean? Will you send my debrief report to my department chair / Dean?

Our reports are confidential materials between the CTL staff and our teaching observation clients. CTL staff are not permitted to share these confidential reports with anyone outside the CTL and the client. Our reports 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.