Many times in the course of an evaluation project, evaluators choose to head out to project sites to see how their client/evaluand is implementing a program, participating in a program, or progressing overall. Here at Cobblestone, sometimes we head to a project site to observe professional development meetings, but more often, we go observe teachers in the classroom. This year, we are observing teachers in our textbook efficacy study in first, second, and third grade classrooms and we’re also observing teachers who are part of another client project in middle and high school classrooms.
Scheduling these observations can sometimes take more time than the actual observation itself! Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips to help make this easier for everyone involved.
1) Do your calendar research: By this, I mean look not only at your calendar to see what you have coming up and need to work around, but look at the school and district calendars (often, but not always, posted on the school and district websites). Some particular things to look for: parent/teacher conference days, early-out days, and standardized testing days.
2) Give teachers date options: When emailing teachers to see when you can observe them, give them at least two or three days to choose from. I find when I just give one option, they almost always have something going on on that exact day. Plus, who doesn’t like having a choice?
3) Send a checklist: In my initial email to teachers, I ask for everything I will need, in a list format. For example:
Please let me know the following:
1) Will March 4 or 5 work for you? If either date would work, please let me know your preferred date.
2) Which class period would you like us to observe?
3) What time does that class period start?
4) Which subject will you be teaching during that period?
5) Should we let the school know we are coming or will you do that?
6) Is there a particular place we should park or anything in particular we should know about the parking situation at your school?
7) What is your classroom number?
I ask each of these things because I have learned over the course of my classroom observation experiences that each of the above points needs to be clarified prior to the observation. For example, sometimes, the teacher assumes you will let the school know you are coming and you assume the teacher will let the school know you are coming and then when you get there, no one knew you were coming. Also, I like using the list format because most often when I get a response from a teacher, it is in that list order and I can see if they missed giving me any information.
4) Confirm: Always, ALWAYS send a confirmation email two to three days before your observation. I have learned the hard way that you cannot assume a teacher will remember you are coming to observe them, especially if you originally scheduled the observation more than a few days prior to the observation date itself.
If you have to schedule observations in the future, I hope these tips help you. Do you have any you would like to share?