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Meeting the Challenge of STEM Classroom Observation in Evaluating Teacher Development Projects: A Comparison of Two Widely Used Instruments

Abstract

Observation of classroom lessons is an important if problematic component of educational evaluation. Where programs aim at teacher professional development, student performance enhancement, curricular change, or implementation of reform teaching methods, direct observation is crucial to validating and explaining results. However, the challenges of funding and maintaining uniformly trained observers and optimally timing observations have led some evaluators to avoid this evaluative technique. Of greatest importance is the selection of an observational instrument that captures information across domains of interest with sufficient validity and reliability. This presentation offers an analysis and comparison of the two most often used observational instruments in math and science K-12 classrooms. These instruments " Inside the Classroom Observation and Analytic Protocol and the Reform Teaching Observation Protocol " evidence not only similarities but marked differences in design, focus, documentation and observer skill requirements. The authors offer recommendations for potential users to enhance usefulness and avoid pitfalls.

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