A teacher observation of students’ learning involves these steps: prepare for observing, observe and record the behaviors, intervene, and summarize. Preparation for observation means deciding which student behaviors and actions are to be observed, deciding the observers, making a sampling plan, making an observation form or checklist, and training the observers. 

The best way to decide what to observe is to make a flow chart with the steps students will use to accomplish the tasks. The flow chart shows what the group actually does. One or more of the following instructional outcomes can be included in a flow chart:

  • Academic learning and performance: The students are observed while they are working in groups to determine whether they understand what they are studying, if they are making progress, what they know and retain over time.

  • Cognitive reasoning: The teacher has to assess learning outcomes such as depth of understanding or level of reasoning by opening a “window into students’ minds” and observing students “thinking out loud”. Teachers could obtain oral explanations either by listening to students talk in cooperative groups or interviewing them, which is more time consuming. 

  • Social skills: A very important advantage of cooperative learning is that it permits teachers to assess student’ mastery of the social skills needed to work with others

  • Attitudes: Through observation, the teacher can assesses students’ readiness to learn, their desire to achieve new knowledge or their commitment to being responsible citizens

  • Work methods: Through observing process, teachers can assess work strategies such as timing, striving for excellence, improving one’s work (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). 

Types of observation procedures: formal observation form used to record how often target actions take place, observation checklists for determining the quality of the target actions, and informal observation which is a teacher’s impressions of what is happening in the classroom (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). 

How to construct a formal observation form

In creating an observation form, according to Johnson, Johnson, and Holubec (1998), the teacher has to:

  • State precisely what behaviors, actions, skills, events, or reactions are being observed. 

  • Determine the observation period. Groups can be observed for a few minutes or for one hour. Data can be summarized after one class session or after several class sessions. 

  • Type the actions to be observed in the first column. Each action has its cell and the final cell is to record the total. 

  • Create a column for each student and make a final column for the total for each row. 

  • Columns should be visible and clearly labeled and cells should be wide enough to enter data. 

A simple formal observation form contains two columns to indicate on and off task behaviors, students’ names, and a comments column. 

How to construct an observation checklist 

An observation checklist shows the quality with which each student demonstrates a target action, skill, or procedure. A checklist includes students’ names, space for a few targeted behaviors, a code to show the level of mastery, a space for comments, and a space to record the date. 

How to make informal observation

Informal observing is recording only the important, specific events involving students. The teacher should take into account only qualitative incidents and be specific and brief in recording them (Johnson, Johnson, & Holubec, 1998). 


           Johnson, D., Johnson, R.& Holubec, E. (1998).Cooperation in the classroom. Boston: Allyn and Bacon