Peer Observations of Classroom Activities

Why peer observation?

The Peer Observation of Classroom Activities (POCA) program is a network of faculty observing each other's teaching. Peer-observation programs can document the types of teaching practices on instructor and departmental levels, support professional development opportunities, and evaluate the effects of instructional interventions with pre and post observations. This program helps participants by conducting observations and providing an objective source of formative feedback.

Both observing and being observed are beneficial processes. When observing other instructors, you have the opportunity to see how others conduct their classes and to experience a class from the students' point of view. When being observed, you will likely think about your teaching practices in different ways than you typically do, especially by considering the student or observers perspective of the classroom experience.

What is COPUS?

The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) is a tool for systematically documenting student and teacher behaviors as one means of assessing instructor effectiveness in STEM classrooms. Student and teacher behaviors are classified into activites such as asking a question or lecturing and are logged in two-minute intervals. The resulting data can be used to reconstruct the nature of instruction on the observed day, and class sessions can be classified according to their predominant activities.

A portion of the spreadsheet version of the COPUS form is shown below, both blank and as it might appear after being completed. You can download the spreadsheet here the full document with the code descriptions is available here

COPUS form excerpt

 COPUS form sample 

What do I have to do?


  • attend a 2- to 3-hour training on using COPUS at least once. Training must be completed prior to conducting in-class observations
  • conduct all observations simultaneously with your faculty partner. Both observers must be present for each observation. Individual observations will nullify the data.
  • complete 4 observations for 2 faculty instructors during the Fall and Spring semesters
  • turn in completed COPUS forms prior to the end of the academic term


  • attend a 45-minute informational meeting
  • allow 2 observers to observe twice in the classroom
  • Complete an online Teaching Practices Inventory once during the semester
  • participate in a 1-hour one-on-one consultation

 What do I get out of it?

As an observer, you will have the opportunity to see how others in the College of Engineering teach and consider how what you observe might inform or expand your own teaching practices. Our post-observation reflections (word or pdf) can be used to guide a structured reflection on what you observe.

All faculty who are observed by COPUS-trained observers and complete the TPI receive a personalized report of the COPUS and TPI data. You and the Director of the ECEC will review the personalized report in a one-on-one consultation where you will discuss recommendations for future teaching and available workshops or professional development programs that might be of interest to you. Following the one-on-one consultation, you are encouraged to engage in structured reflection on your instructional data using our reflection packet (word or pdf), which contains reflections for both the single-semester reports and the multi-semester reports.

The personalized report contains visualizations of your data and descriptive information about how your data compare to the data of other participants from the College of Engineering. A sample single-semester report is available here and a sample multi-semester report is available here.

Sample profile distribution Sample TPI plot Sample heatmap

Who is involved?

  • Dr. Tareq Daher, the Director of the ECEC conducts the COPUS training and the one-on-one consultations with participating faculty.
  • Dr. Markeya Peteranetz, the Learning Assessment Coordinator, prepares the personalized reports.
  • COPUS-trained observers come from all departments within the College of Engineering.


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