Observation Prompt Tool (OPT)--DRAFT

(Fasse, Gray, Holbrook, 1999)


Teacher/School: Observer:

Date: Time: Class/Period:

# Students: #Female/male: #white/black/asian/hispanic/other:

Activity type (Modality of class period)–list all:



Formal curriculum (see book and/or check w. teacher):




Enacted curriculum (see board, listen for modifications to book, watch teacher w. students):


Today’s Observations include:

________Physical Environment

________School Environment

________LBD Continuity

________Social Environment

________General Management



________Teacher’s Presence and Role

________Class Tone






______Question/Questioning Interactions

______Group Work



________Gallery Walks


______Challenge Management

________Problem Set-up

________ Problem Explication


_______Hands-On Activities

_______Use of Outside Resources

________Tools of Scaffolding

_______Computer Based

_______Design Diaries

_______Urgent Notes

_______Copies of Teacher-Produced Materials

Observation Prompt Tool (OPT)

(Holbrook, Gray, Fasse 1999)


Physical Environment



Cluttered/messy/T unable to find things

Some disarray but T knows where things are


bolted-in tables–arrangement:


movable tables–shape:

Comments/descriptions of clasroom and school environment–may include phys. school environment., such as noise, dirt, temperature, room size, supplies:


Social Environment

General Management:



e.g., announcements, roll call, bathroom break, h.w. check

e.g., assigned, cliques

circle all that apply:

circle all that apply:

  • did not observe
  • not done at all
  • using class time (when? how much?)
  • unobtrusively as students work or file in

Group work (how selected?)

number in group:_______

  • additional divisions–describe
  • groups interacting–describe

work modality:

  • seated together as group
  • station-to-station (teams trade off for build-and-test, computer and deskwork, etc.)
  • milling around (no plan)
  • all groups on same task(s)
  • Did not Observe


  • (describe)

Active T. intervention (modally):

  • stops class to discipline indiv./group
  • calls student/group aside
  • ends activity punitively

Passive T. intervention:

  • modifies activity, class instructions, group divisions, other (describe)
  • raises voice over spurious talking
  • pauses for quiet/attention
  • signals for quiet/attention

Teacher usually:

  • moves from place to place
  • Stands/sits facing class faces
  • Stands/sits facing class backs
  • Stands/sits w. back to class

Class discussion/activity:


  • interactive (T-S/S-S, T or S
    initiate comments)
  • managed (how?)
  • free-for-all (pos/neg)

  • successive T-S dialogs
  • non-interactive
  • Qs w/o follow-up,
  • Not required to justify answers
  • T. ignores S. suggestions or

doesn’t explain decisions

T. discipline Tone (modally):

  • firm, pleasant
  • firm, businesslike
  • firm, unpleasant
  • joking
  • angry

T is modally (circle):

  • Off-duty (doing other things
    & not alert to students’ actions
    or activities)
  • On-call (doing other things but
    watching or there for Ss)
  • On duty (interacting w. or
  • directly watching students at
  • all times)
  • Other (describe)

Passive student mode:

  • Lecture
  • Video
  • Teacher demonstration
  • Other:

Managing Materials:

What’s being dispensed?_____________

  • T. dispenses (why?)
  • T. assigns students to dispense
  • Self-serve
  • Other ___________________

Individual student work:

  • Worksheet
  • Exam
  • Journal
  • Other________________

Comments/descriptions of social environment–may include phys. school environment, such as interruptions, scheduling, hallway behavior, office behavior :


Tone of the classroom:

Teacher conveys to students that activity is:


  • social time–a lot of wasted time
  • semi-serious–some wasted time
  • serious, little wasted time, good humored
  • serious, unpleasant
  • other

Students convey that the activity is:


  • ocial time–a lot of wasted time, lots of off-task behavior,
    little interest in the activity, playing w. materials, power
    struggles for their own sake
  • semi-serious–some wasted time, not carefully following
    directions, phasing in and out of discussion, power
    struggles related to getting task done
  • serious, little wasted time, good humored,
    interested in activity
  • serious, unpleasant (worried, snapping at others,
  • other
  • s

Teacher Attitude to students/teaching:

  • Barely surviving
  • Semi-enthusiastic
  • Businesslike
  • Enthusiastic
  • Sarcastic (pos/neg)
  • Nurturing
  • In control of class (pos/neg)
  • Other:

Student Attitude to teacher/class/school:

  • Bored, uninvolved
  • Frustrated--Unable to understand/accomplish goal
  • Respectful of others/teacher/goals–try to accomplish well
  • Disruptive
  • In control of class (pos/neg)
  • Uses teacher as resource
  • Sees teacher as obstacle to work around
  • Fatalistic
  • Other:


Comments/descriptions of classroom tone:





Directions: Note frequency of question types, detail observations in Comments section



Questions about:

  • science
  • design
  • current project
  • homework
  • resources

Questions about:

  • science
  • design
  • current project
  • homework
  • resources.

Question types:

  • Explain why?
  • How would you use this?
  • What is the difference between this and another S’s idea?
  • How are the designs similar?
  • What do you think causes the ….. to work the way it does?
  • Do you agree or disagree with that statement? (followed up?
  • What evidence is there to support your answer, idea, design decision?Yes/no or Choice A/B questions


Teacher mostly asks questions:

Teacher deals w. off-topic questions or comments by:

Comments/descriptions of teacher’s style of developing learning issues:

Comments on questions:


Use one of these sheets per group you observe

Group efficacy, tone

Teacher interactions (under construction)

  • All members actively engaged in project, on task.
  • Some members actively disruptive.
  • Some members passively disruptive.
  • Some members actively excluded.
  • Some members passively excluded.
  • One or two members insist on doing all work.
  • One or some members refuse to work.
  • All members socialize a lot, work a little.
  • Some members socialize a lot, work a little.
  • Negotiations are positive.
  • Negotiations are negative.
  • Members share ideas with one another & subject

all ideas to fair decision making process.

  • Members reject or ignore one another’s ideas.
  • Turn taking is evident in discourse.
  • Members negotiate clearly defined or observable roles.
  • When stuck, group calls on teacher.
  • When stuck, group gives up work.
  • When stuck, group looks to other resources for help.
  • Group goes as deep as possible into assignment.
  • Group tries to complete assignment, avoids going deeper.
  • Group tries to change assignment so it’s off-topic.
  • Group tries to avoid doing parts of assignment.
  • Group is confident about its ability to complete good project.
  • Group is tentative about its ability to complete good project.

Why does a teacher usually go to a group? (discipline, rotating through each, checking progress, etc.)

Does T. usually interact positively with group?

Does T. usually take over group?

Does the teacher get students/groups to help one another–encourage students to be experts for one another?



Comments/descriptions on group work: Make sure to record information separately for different groups you observe

Presentations "Cheat Sheet"(Generic)

Presentation typePresentation Mode

Also comment on:

  • Pinup
  • Gallery walk
  • Rules of Thumb
  • Whiteboard
  • Report
  • Other____________________

Centers around:

  • Artifact/model(e.g., parachute, car)
  • graphic representation
  • written report
  • Includes data (How?)
  • Initial Interim Final
  • Planned Spontaneous
  • Graded–describe or provide rubric
  • Ungraded

  • Intended presenters:
  • Individual Student
  • Group Spokesperson(s)
  • Whole Group
  • Teacher

Actual presenters:

  • As intended
  • Other____________________
  • Who selects the presentation format? T/S/both
  • Who demonstrates it?
  • Evidence used to justify aspects of presentation
  • Critiques/Compliments
  • Comparisons
  • Attention from onlookers (check throughout the activity)





LBD Presentations "Cheat Sheet"


Gallery Walks

--Describe the artifact or model being designed--


  • Include written headers, explanations as necessary
  • Include drawings
  • Plan is realistic given time/materials/skill constraints
  • Include justifications for ideas
  • From plan, have clear idea of the planned structure
  • From plan, know what the planned environment/circumstances of use
  • From plan, can understand how all parts are supposed to work (and work together)

--Describe the artifact or model being presented–


  • Static presentation (shows what the artifact/model looks like and a chart of data)
  • Dynamic presentation (runs the model or artifact as intended–may be a "race" between groups)
  • Includes history of design decisions, justifications
  • Includes group/class data
  • Groups acknowledge ideas they’ve gotten from one another in presentation
  • Recommendation (or next step) clear at end


  • Who initiates the session? T/class
  • Who displays the ideas for designs? T/class
  • Who asks questions about designs presented? T/S/both/no one
  • Who gives feedback about designs presented? T/S/both/no one
  • Is tone of feedback constructive?
  • Are Pinups times for exciting interchanges?
  • Do Ss see to enjoy the session?
  • Does teacher ask questions that encourage students to think deeply, respond w. justifications?

Question Types include:

--Explain why

--How would you use this?

--What is the difference between this and another student’s idea?

--How are the designs similar?

--What do you think causes the ….. to work the way it does?

--Do you agree or disagree with that statement?

--What evidence is there to support your answer, idea, design decision?


  • Who initiates the session? T/class
  • Who displays the artifacts or models? T/class
  • Who asks questions about the artifact or model? T/S/both/no one
  • Who gives feedback? T/S/both/no one
  • Is tone of feedback constructive?
  • Are comparisons made with plans or earlier versions of the same group?
  • Do Questions and comments include:

focus on

superficial features

structural aspects

behavioral/functional aspects

science principles

aestheticsof the designs/artifacts.

BE SPECIFIC–Quotations are great

Is the gallery walk mostly about "success" vs. "failure", about lessons learned, about finding patterns & connections, about ingenuity…?




Challenge Management "Cheat Sheet"

(Under construction)

Problem SetUp

Problem Explication (following any phase of design challenge)


Case Studies

Outside Resources (e.g., library, video)

  • Standard categories used
  • Other (describe)


  • Encourages Ss to share all ideas.
  • Re-phrases S. ideas to reflect potential science content.
  • Dismisses student ideas.
  • Ignores student ideas.
  • Presents particular learning issues.
  • Preserves S contribution but re-frames to focus on a particular learning issue.
  • Asks add’l Qs to help S clarify comment/contribution.
  • Asks add’l Qs to elicit S ideas.
  • Works to include many students in process.
  • Calls only on Ss who volunteer.
  • Strives to include students in organization of ideas.
  • Allows errors or early conceptions to remain on whiteboard in early phases.
  • Students involved in writing on the whiteboard itself.


  • Many/most in class volunteer in generating learning issues, ideas, and action plans.
  • Only a few actively participating.
  • Often ask one another Qs, comment on others’ views and ideas in pos. manner.
  • Seldom ask one another Qs, comment on others’ views and ideas in pos. manner
  • Often criticize or negate others’ ideas
  • Tend to rely on T. for idea generation.
  • Tend to rely on T. for organization of activity
  • Make connections to the real world in examples
  • Notice connections to other activities from this class
  • Stop group or class activity to assess the progress and project a plan for where it is going
  • Explicitly makes the connection between science content and activity

Needs doing

Needs doing





Activity Type:





  • Did not observe
  • Printed

__ handout

__ in book

__ on board

__ on overhead

  • Oral
  • Requires reading to complete task
  • Requires following diagrams and/or symbols to complete task
  • Did not observe
  • Formal–class time set aside to read (aloud or silently) or listen, discuss
  • Informal–as part of task, to do individually or in group
  • Did not observe
  • T adheres to what’s written
  • T changes directions at the beginning of activity–why?
  • T changes directions during activity–why?
  • T checks that students are following directions carefully
  • T allows groups to follow directions as they choose
  • Ss check their adherence to directions fairly carefully
  • Ss look only at start/end of directions
  • Ss ignore some part of directions–why?
  • Ss misunderstand directions




Teacher Roles During Activity

Interacting with Groups

Time & Resources:

Teaching Facility:

Passive or reactive:

  • Responds to group’s requests for help
  • Provides answers directly
  • Passes out materials
  • Monitoring class/groups for behavior but not engaging groups directly

Active or proactive:

___Demonstrations (describe)

___Interacting w. most or all groups:

  • Facilitates group communication
  • Helps students figure out answers through questioning, modeling
  • Facilitates trouble shooting w. artifact
  • Helps students understand underlying science
  • Models observation, testing
  • Suggests resources
  • Passes on same information to each group, but separately
  • Facilitates exchange of information between groups
  • Tells a group the answer when they’re stuck
  • Models reflective behavior by stopping to name it, make it explicit, show the value ("Hey, where are we?""; "How could we do this better?"; "What are we doing here?""; "Where did you get that idea?"; "It’s important to think about these things [connections to the real world].")
  • Uses LBDä rituals to scaffold process of reflection (i.e., returns to whiteboard at the end of a design activity asking kids to identify what they have learned)
  • Asks kids to use science concepts to justify or explain their decisions
  • Seizes opportunity to model process of reflection/self-assessment (ie, someone has a good idea; everybody is making the same mistake)
  • Asks students to tell how a science concept applies to the design project or to the issue related to the current phase of design or construction


  • States time limits at beginning of activity
  • Reminds Ss of time limits often
  • Keeps class moving between stages of activity well
  • Changes time limits when necessary
  • Is unclear about time limits
  • Doesn’t allow enough time for announced schedule (e.g., cleanup, final discussion, gallery walk, iteration)


  • Makes sure materials are used properly
  • Makes sure enough inventory is maintained
  • Restricts access to resources (hands out personally)
  • Seems to know the activity well
  • Seems to have misconceptions about the activity
  • Seems unable to fabricate artifacts of the activity
  • Seems to have trouble with troubleshooting artifacts as they’re being fabricated or tested
  • Seems unsure of how to use the activity to forward science thinking
  • Is good at using a given group’s imperfect artifact or their current difficulty to teach something important about design or science
  • Knows which scaffolding tools (gw, wb, dd, r of t, pinup) to use to promote learning of science
  • Knows which scaffolding tools (gw, wb, dd, r of t, pinup) to use to promote process of reflection
  • Knows what to explain and to whom
  • Knows when and how to make connections between design issues and science
  • Missed specific opportunity to connect the science to the design process
  • Missed opportunity to employ an LBDä ritual to scaffold reflection
  • Missed opportunity to model process of reflection (i.e., stopping to make it explicit)
  • Missed opportunity to encourage kids to look for science in the real world
  • Missed opportunity to ask for justification based on science content
  • Missed opportunity to model explanation based on science content





Activity Development

Materials Exploration


Data Gathering

  • Use materials as intended
  • Try novel uses of materials (e.g., tying rubber bands together, using pencil as axle)
  • Misuse materials (e.g., shooting rubber bands, running cars off tables)
  • Systematically explore (e.g., enumerate some approaches, try each, compare results)
  • Try only one approach
  • Note strengths/weaknesses Minimize/ignore weaknesses
  • Cite outside influences (e.g., cases, watching what other groups do)
  • Follow directions carefully
  • Check for loose parts, symmetry, proportion, make sure parts fit the whole, etc.
  • Construct hastily and carelessly
  • Do "seaworthy" tests (e.g., put light weight or pressure on structure to see whether it will hold, roll a car a short distance to make sure it works)



Developed by (circle):

directions teacher class group

  • Develop explicit procedure for observing/gathering data
  • Discuss/set controls
  • Discuss/set levels of variables
  • Discuss/set number of trials


Developed by (circle):

directions teacher class group

See Scale above

  • Meas. is precise
  • Meas. occurs at appropriate times (e.g., weighing before & after changes occur)
  • Units of meas. appropriate (e.g., unit sizes, use metric)
  • Uniform units for data sharing


  • Using printed forms (describe & obtain, if possible)
  • Class-developed methodology (describe)
  • Group-developed methodology (describe)


  • Average calculated
  • Variance noted calculated
  • Graphing–describe
  • Applied to re-design--describe

Observation & Troubleshooting

  • Share ideas by listening and discussing whether to incorporate or not
  • Justifies decisions using experience or science
  • Multiple tests before making a decision
  • Applies something from the real world
  • Applies scientific principle
  • Applies something from previous activities in this class



Hands-on activities feel like:








--under construction–

--computer based tools such as SMILE

--design diaries