Helping instructors gather and interpret feedback on their teaching is one of the most important ways the Bok Center serves individual teachers at Harvard. Having your class observed by one of our experienced consultants gives you another perspective on your teaching that can help you situate student feedback within a broader context.
Why Should I Schedule an Observation?
Class observations are a powerful tool for instructors at every level of experience to reflect on their practice, see what they already do well, and consider the ways in which they wish to grow and develop. You can have one of our experienced Bok Center staff visit your class and chat with you afterwards, confidentially, in order for you to gain insight into how your teaching is perceived by a sympathetic but dispassionate observer.
Should I Also Ask for Videotaping?
While it is not necessary to videotape the class which you have observed, we strongly encourage teachers to take advantage of our videotaping capabilities as part of their observation. Our consultant can bring a camera with him/her to your class, and send you a copy of the resulting video a few days after your meeting. We find that video is a particularly effective way to put yourselves in the shoes of your students and reflect on the act of teaching. It can be difficult to imagine how students are experiencing your class in the moment, when your mind is racing to keep ahead of the next student comment or question. Watching the video later, after you have absorbed feedback from your consultant, will allow you to see things that may have been invisible to you at the time. Does what you see on video match your own perceptions of your teaching? Can you brainstorm other ways of approaching the material, or strategies to use with the students? For students pursuing the Bok Teaching Certificate, the video is a required part of the process.
A Note on Preparing for Your Observation
We find that teachers learn the most from the experience of being observed (and taped) when they develop an authentic lesson plan for the class in question. We know the observer effect is in play, and that having a consultant or camera in your classroom may be a bit disruptive, but try to preserve as much of your normal interaction as possible. When our consultants observe you, we're not judging your performance against any ideals or rubrics; we're trying to help you ask questions like, "What kind of experience do I think that student is having? What is it really like for her to be in my class?" Consultations are always private and confidential, and they can focus on any aspects of the class that interest you as a teacher.