Time Well Spent?

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Science  07 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6171, pp. 581
DOI: 10.1126/science.343.6171.581-c

As science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction begins to shift to a more active approach, how do we best collect and analyze data on how teachers and students spend their classroom time? Smith et al. have developed the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM, or COPUS, as a standardized protocol for collecting data on STEM teaching practices. Development spanned 2 years and involved dozens of iterations and testing scenarios designed and executed by science education specialists. COPUS works by documenting classroom behavior at 2-min intervals during a class session through the use of 25 codes in two categories: “what the students are doing” and “what the instructor is doing.” The benefit of this system is that observers recording the behaviors are not required to make judgments about teaching quality, and analysis of classroom activities can be summarized for the teacher in the form of a pie chart. Moreover, minimal training is needed in order for COPUS to be used effectively. The protocol should enable faculty members to characterize the general state of teaching and learning in their departments, provide feedback to colleagues interested in assessing how their time with students is being spent, and, perhaps most importantly, identify areas where faculty professional development is needed.

CBE Life Sci. Educ. 12, 618 (2013).

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