The TRU Observation Guides, also available in domain-general and mathematics-specific versions (Schoenfeld, A. H., and the Teaching for Robust Understanding Project, 2016 a,b), were specifically designed to support planning for, conducting, and debriefing classroom observations.
The primary idea behind TRU is that what counts in instruction is how the student experiences the content. This is summarized in figure 4, which highlights the key aspects of instruction from the student point of view.
Observing a lesson from the student perspective
The observation guides adopt this perspective. As with the conversation guides, the intention is to support collaborative conversations. Prior to an observation, teacher and observer discuss the lesson plan and decide on the main points of focus for the observation. The observation might be comprehensive – it is possible for a practiced observer to take notes on all five dimensions. Alternatively, the teacher and observer might agree to focus on one or two areas the teacher wants to address in detail.
The form of the observation guide and its use are straightforward. Each observation sheet focuses on one dimension of the framework and is one page long. That sheet summarizes key aspects of the dimension and goals for students, along with a sample list of “look fors” (signs that things are going well) for students and the teacher. There is room to tailor the observations to the specific lesson, and space for note-taking.