All department chairs are encouraged to recommend the Student Observer Program to department colleagues. The program provides student feedback on faculty teaching. Student Observers can provide information that is objective yet student-oriented. A Student Observer sits in on a course, sometimes throughout the term, sometimes just for a few sessions, depending on the desires of the instructor. The student observer will meet with the instructor in advance to talk about the particular sort of feedback that he or she is seeking. The student will then attend the class and subsequently meet with the instructor to offer confidential feedback. Students are trained not to give “advice” about the instructor’s teaching unless asked to do so, but rather help a faculty member see himself or herself through a student’s eyes. Student observers are also trained to maintain strict confidentiality about their conversations with faculty.

The program is available to all faculty. It has been used by tenured, untenured, permanent and temporary faculty; faculty offering large lectures and small discussion classes; and faculty who are experimenting with a new teaching technique or format. It has also been used by faculty who simply want to ascertain that their current pedagogical methods are working.

The Program is a service provided by the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching and the LTC Director trains all student observers. The Director may report the number of faculty using the program to the Provost for planning purposes, but faculty names are only recorded if the faculty involved choose to make their participation known. The Provost never seeks information from the LTC for use in faculty reviews.

Thoughts from faculty on the Student Observer Program:

  • “I had specific goals for how to make the class more interactive…with the help of my observer, they worked so well that we’ve gone on to new issues!”
  • “The observer was able to tell me how students react in ways I could not know, or notice easily.”
  • “I can’t say enough about him. He has been superb throughout the term. Exactly what I needed in terms of giving frank, even handed, and always, very targeted feedback on every aspect of my classroom teaching….Most impressive were the observation notes he typed for me for each weekly meeting.”

Thoughts from students on the Student Observer Program:

  • “Now I’m a student observer in all my classes…I’m gaining skills in identifying what works and learning how I learn best.”
  • “This position gave me a much greater understanding not only of what a professor’s job entails (which is useful since I am contemplating a career in higher education)…It was also very encouraging to see the quality of classroom interactions rise and to see [the professor become] more satisfied and comfortable with her teaching.”