In science, students collect data and analyze those data to make sense of the experience. In a similar manner, FOSS recommends that schools collect data about science instruction on a regular basis and analyze them to determine next steps to further professional learning. Many schools have protocols for making classroom observations, but those are likely not specific to science. FOSS has developed a classroom observation tool that can be adapted to fit each school’s need.
The tool has several sections and it is recommended that administrators only use those relevant to the goals or expectations agreed upon as areas of focus. When getting started, we recommend working with just the first two pages as they address critical components of the program—classroom culture and active investigation. A school might focus their entire first year on those sections to ensure a solid foundation.
The remaining sections of the observation tool are meant for evaluating more advanced elements of instructional practice. It is important to note, depending on the lesson and when the class is observed, that you might see only a portion of the practice elements listed in the observation tool. Additionally, the “code” is not specifically defined so you will need to determine what you will use as criteria for measuring levels of progress. Finally, we recommend that teachers use the observation tool as a self-assessment tool for reflecting on their own practice and promoting a culture of continuous improvement. Teachers could collaborate to write specific descriptors for each observation category. This supports a growth mindset for teachers and makes the observation tool more relevant for each school.
As you observe science in the classroom, it is typical to see a range of comfort and expertise—some teachers will be successful with their first module while others might need more support. The observation tool can serve as a way to measure this and identify areas of future emphasis towards your school goals. We also recommend making observations during science time to identify areas of success and areas in need of support.