Student observers provide needed feedback to faculty

September 7, 2012 | Features, UToday
By Samantha Watson

Whether it’s an assessment of their teaching methods or checking out their classes, faculty members can turn to student observers to gain a different perspective.

When a faculty member wants feedback on his or her class, he or she can turn to the Student Observer Program at The University of Toledo. The program is available to any instructor and any class, including online or hybrid courses.

“This program offers the chance to contribute to the University in a way that is positive,” said Jeff Jablonski, program coordinator. “It has a very big impact on the quality of learning and teaching.”

Student observers are trained to monitor different aspects of a course in multiple ways, so they can suit an instructor’s needs. Some observers sit in as a faux student, taking notes and recording what is taught in class rather than how it is delivered. Others record the organization of a class — what is taught or how much one subject is covered versus another.

Once a student observer has been requested, he or she is matched up with the instructor and an initial meeting is arranged. At that meeting, the faculty member discusses with the observer what he or she is looking to gain from the experience.

After meeting, the student observer attends the class and gathers data. He or she then prepares feedback in the form of a written report and presents it to the instructor.

“It’s a rather unique program because of the dialogue between faculty and students,” said John Gaboury, executive director of Learning Ventures, which oversees the program. “It’s almost as if the roles are reversed.”

Participation in this program by faculty is completely voluntary, and information gathered by the student observers is strictly confidential. Faculty members who have used this tool before have said that these observations can help enhance student learning.

Observers are generally sophomores or juniors with at least a 3.0 grade point average and excellent observation and communication skills. Students from any major can become an observer. Each student receives 10 to 15 hours of training before his or her first assignment.

This program began providing insight for faculty members in 1995 when it was created by Dr. Bernie Bopp, who has since become a professor emeritus.

Read more about the Student Observer Program here.

For more information, to schedule an observation, or to nominate a student who might be interested in becoming an observer, contact Jablonski at

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