Coaching Observation

Coaching observations focus on using objective classroom data to identify the impact of a teacher's actions on student learning
307 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Observational feedback should not be advice or criticism. Instead, observational feedback should be specific information, based on objective and observable evidence, about the impact of a teacher's efforts to reach a student-facing goal. Feedback can feel very personal, but using objective data makes feedback feel less about the person whose actions are being observed and more about the impact of those actions. When you record and share objective observation data and a non-judgmental description of what occurred in the classroom, the teacher can interpret how their actions impacted the desired student-facing outcome. This instructional leadership strategy provides an instructional coach with a variety of ways to focus a coaching observation on objective data. The resources here provide examples, models, and easy-to-follow tools and advice on how to prepare for, structure, and record a coaching observation.

Implementation Steps

15 minutes
  1. Before observing the teacher, establish a collaborative dialogue about the goal of the observation using sentence stems such as these from Diane Sweeney's "Coaching Questions & Sentence Stems to Support Open-Ended Dialogue."

  2. Set a purpose for the observation. Identify what evidence, or "look fors," you will be observing for during your classroom visit. These observable look fors should be a desired result of the teacher's actions.

    • Tip: Use the sentence stem, "Students will be..." 

  3. Record observations in a collaborative log such as this one from BetterLesson. In your observation notes, focus on specific observable teacher and student behaviors, work output, and actions that can be objectively described. 

Coaching Observation For Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Tools and steps to help you conduct coaching observations in a distance learning setting. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Email, call, or video conference the teacher and let them know that you will be performing a remote "observation." State a specific purpose for the requested "observation." For example, this may be part of a coaching cycle that began in a traditional setting and is continuing in a distance learning setting, or perhaps you are supporting the teacher on a stated need specific to distance learning. 

    • Remember to be purposeful in your observations and clearly communicate the intent of the observation. Make sure that you set norms with the teacher so they feel comfortable with an observation in distance learning. 

  2. Decide what you will observe. For example, a live video whole-class session, a small group video session for a few students, video office hours, or a one-on-one conference. Alternatively, you could ask to explore some of the asynchronous work that the teacher produces for her students (such as Hyperdocs, Flipgrids, Choice Boards etc.) Consider asking the teacher what they would like the most feedback on and let that determine your choice for what to observe. 

  3. Set up the logistics with the teacher whose classroom you are observing. 

    • For a synchronous observation, make sure you know the time and have the correct video link. Also, discuss if you will introduce yourself to students in the video call and if you will have your video on. Make sure you know the context for the video call (for example, a live instruction, office hours etc.) 

    • If the teacher would prefer an asynchronous observation, ask her/him to record the session and send the recording link to you. See the resources below for steps to record the video session. The teacher could also share asynchronous student work (such as a FlipGrid or Padlet) with the coach. If doing this, it is helpful for the teacher to have a specific question or dilemma that they want support with. For example, "How can I support my students to have deeper discussions in a distance learning setting?" 

  4. Select an observation protocol (see the resource in the resource section below). Similar to an observation in a traditional setting, having a protocol helps the observer and observed by giving focus to the observation.

  5. Conduct the observation and take low-inferences notes in the organizer linked in the resource section below. 

  6. Invite the teacher to debrief with you. Consider the use of a video platform for a live debrief. To schedule, consider using Calendly. See the "Calendly Tutorial" in the resource section below for more information.

  7. In the debrief, include steps that teachers could use to implement instructional strategies for synchronous or asynchronous distance learning

Tech Tools


  • Screencastify makes it easy to record your own video lesson leveraging resources you have organized in your web browser (slide deck, websites, Google Docs, etc.). Pointing, highlighting and even writing over content is possible while displaying your video and audio as well.
  • Screencastify can support this strategy by providing you with an easy way to record a lesson by using the webcam function. The video can be used later on to analyze teachers and students actions and summarize feedback. It can be very helpful if your are coaching someone remotely or if you cannot attend the particular moment of a lesson that a teacher has been working on.