Employing customizable digital observation tools to support classroom-focused pedagogical partnership


  • Emily Donahoe University of Mississippi
  • Jess Staggs University of Maryland
  • Dominique Vargas California Lutheran University https://orcid.org/0009-0007-1751-0890




pedagogical partnership, classroom observation, generalized observation and reflection platform, observation protocol, digital tools


This case study examines the use of the Generalized Observation and Reflection Platform (GORP)—a digital tool for developing fully customizable observation protocols as well as for collecting, analyzing, and reporting quantitative observation data—within the University of Notre Dame’s Inclusive Pedagogy Partnership. We found that the tool enhanced collaboration between partners in articulating and setting goals for their work and in highlighting and conceptualizing growth in the classroom. It also improved the efficiency of classroom observations and generated visual and quantitative data that usefully supplemented more traditional qualitative observations. Because of a steep learning curve, however, providing extensive time and support for partners in incorporating GORP was key to its successful implementation. We also suggest that GORP may serve as a useful tool for helping partners move between product- and process-oriented understandings of their work and for empowering student partners to take ownership of their observations.


Download data is not yet available.


Abbott, C., & Been, L. (2017). Strategies for transforming a classroom into a brave and trusting learning community: A dialogic approach. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(22). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss22/3

Addy, T. M., Berkove, E., Borzone, M., Butler, M., Cham, F., deSaussure, A., Exarhos, A., Mancuso, M., Rizk, M., Rossmann, T., Ruebeck, C., & Younas, H. (2022). Student pedagogical partnerships to advance inclusive teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal for Students as Partners, 6(1), 81–89. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v6i1.4869

Asgari, M., Miles, A. M., Lisboa, M. S., & Sarvary, M. A. (2021). COPUS, PORTAAL, or DART? Classroom observation tool comparison from the instructor user’s perspective. Frontiers in Education (Lausanne), 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2021.740344

Battat, J. (2012). Facilitating quantum leaps: Reflections on how to promote active student learning in a physics classroom. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(6). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss6/2

Bernstein, J. O. (2019). Transformative self-centering through partnership. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(26). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss26/4

Cook-Sather, A. (2008). “What you get is looking in a mirror, only better”: Inviting students to reflect (on) college teaching. Reflective Practice, 9(4): 473–83. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623940802431465

Cook-Sather, A. (2019). Increasing inclusivity through pedagogical partnerships between students and faculty. Diversity & Democracy, 22(1). Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/

Cook-Sather, A. (2020). Respecting voices: How the co-creation of teaching and learning can support academic staff, underrepresented students, and equitable practices. Higher Education, 79(5), 885-901. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00445-w

Cook-Sather, A., Addy, T. A., DeVault, A., & Litvitskiy, N. (2021). Where are the students in efforts for inclusive excellence? Two approaches to positioning students as critical partners for inclusive pedagogical practices. To Improve the Academy, 40(1): 105–130. https://doi.org/10.3998/tia.961

Cook-Sather, A., & Agu, P. (2013). Students of color and faculty members working together toward culturally sustaining pedagogy. To Improve the Academy, 32(1), 271–285. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2334-4822.2013.tb00710.x

Cook-Sather, A., Bahti, M., & Ntem, A. (2019). Pedagogical partnerships: A how-to guide for faculty, students, and academic developers in higher education. Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/books/pedagogical-partnerships/

Cook-Sather, A., Bahti, M., & Ntem, A. (2019a). Threshold concepts in pedagogical partnership.” Book resources for Pedagogical partnerships: A how-to guide for faculty, students, and academic developers in higher education. Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/books/pedagogical-partnerships/book-resources/threshold-concepts/

Cook-Sather, A., Bahti, M., & Ntem, A. (2019b). Visiting faculty partners’ classrooms and taking observation notes. Book resources for Pedagogical partnerships: A how-to guide for faculty, students, and academic developers in higher education. Elon University Center for Engaged Learning. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/books/pedagogical-partnerships/book-resources/observation-notes/

Cook-Sather, A., Krishna Prasad, S., Marquis, E., & Ntem, A. (2019). Mobilizing a culture shift on campus: Underrepresented students as educational developers. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (159), 21–30. https://doi.org/10.1002/tl.20345

Cook-Sather, A., White, H., Aramburu, T., Samuels, C., & Wynkoop, P. (2020). Moving toward greater equity and inclusion in STEM through pedagogical partnership. In A. Beach, C. Henderson, N. Finkelstein, S. Simkins, G. Weaver, & K. White (Eds.), Transforming institutions: Accelerating systemic change in higher education. Pressbooks. http://openbooks.library.umass.edu/ascnti2020/chapter/cook-sather_etal/

Corbin, K. A. (2014). Get out the map: The use of participation mapping in planning and assessment. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(11). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss11/8

Cosbey, R., Wusterbarth, A., & Hutchinson, B. (2019). Deep learning for classroom activity detection from audio. ICASSP 2019 - 2019 IEEE International Conference on Acoustics, Speech and Signal Processing (ICASSP), United Kingdom (IEEE), 3727–3731. https://doi.org/10.1109/ICASSP.2019.8683365

Daviduke, N. (2018). Growing into pedagogical partnerships over time and across disciplines: My experience as a non-STEM student consultant in STEM courses. International Journal for Students as Partners, 2(2), 151–156. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v2i2.3443

de Bie, A., Marquis, E., Cook-Sather, A., & Luqueño, L. (2021). Promoting equity and justice through pedagogical partnership. Stylus Publishers.

Ebert-May, D., Derting, T. L., Hodder, J., Momsen, J. L., Long, T. M., & Jardeleza, S. E. (2011). What we say is not what we do: Effective evaluation of faculty professional development programs. BioScience, 61(7), 550–558. https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2011.61.7.9

Eze, A. (2019). From listening to responding to leading: Building capacity through four pedagogical partnerships. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(26). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss26/2

Frey, R. F., Fisher, B. A., Solomon, E. D., Leonard, D. A., Mutambuki, J. M., Cohen, C. A., Luo, J., & Pondugula, S. (2016). A visual approach to helping instructors integrate, document, and refine active learning. Journal of College Science Teaching, 45(5), 20–26. https://doi.org/10.2505/4/jcst16_045_05_20

Fung, L., & Chow, L. P. Y. (2002). Congruence of student teachers’ pedagogical images and actual classroom practices. Educational Research, 44(3), 313–321. https://doi.org/10.1080/0013188022000031605

Hagstrom, F., Olson, J., & Cross, C. (2014). The Student Observer Program at Carleton College: Three perspectives on supporting good teaching. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(13). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss13/8

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. Higher Education Academy (HEA). https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/engagement-through-partnership-students-partners-learning-and-teaching-higher

Lund, T. J., Pilarz, M., Velasco, J. B., Chakraverty, D., Rosploch, K., Undersander, M., & Stains, M. (2015). The best of both worlds: Building on the COPUS and RTOP observation protocols to easily and reliably measure various levels of reformed instructional practice. CBE Life Sciences Education, 14(2), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.14-10-0168

Marquis, E., de Bie, A., Cook-Sather, A., Krishna Prasad, S., Luqueño, L., & Ntem, A. (2021). “I saw a change”: Enhancing classroom equity through student-faculty pedagogical partnership. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.5206/cjsotlrcacea.2021.1.10814

Matthews, K. E. (2016). Students as partners as the future of student engagement. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 1(1) 1–5. https://sehej.raise-network.com/raise/article/view/380

Oleson, K. C., & Hovakimyan, K. (2017). Reflections on developing the student consultants for teaching and learning program at Reed College, USA. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i1.3094

Reinholz, D. L., Bradfield, K. & Apkarian, N. (2019). Using analytics to support instructor reflection on student participation in a discourse-focused undergraduate mathematics classroom. International Journal of Research Undergraduate Mathematics Education, 5 56–74. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40753-019-00084-7

Reinholz, D. L., & Shah, N. (2018). Equity analytics: A methodological approach for quantifying participation patterns in mathematics classroom discourse. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 49(2), 140–177. https://doi.org/10.5951/jresematheduc.49.2.0140

Reinholz, D. L. & Shah, N. (2021). Equity and equality: Data visualizations as mediating artifacts for teacher sensemaking about racial and gender inequity. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (CITE), 21(3). https://citejournal.org/volume-21/issue-3-21/mathematics/equity-and-equality-how-data-visualizations-mediate-teacher-sensemaking-about-racial-and-gender-inequity/

Reinholz, D. L., Stone-Johnstone, A. & Shah, N. (2020). Walking the walk: using classroom analytics to support instructors to address implicit bias in teaching. International Journal for Academic Development, 25(3) 259–272. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2019.1692211

Reisner, B. A., Pate, C. L., Kinkaid, M. M., Paunovic, D. M., Pratt, J. M., Stewart, J. L., Raker, J. R., Bentley, A. K., Lin, S., & Smith, S. R. (2020). I’ve been given COPUS (classroom observation protocol for undergraduate STEM) data on my chemistry class. Now what? Journal of Chemical Education, 97(4), 1181–1189. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b01066

Reyes, V., & Adams, K. (2017a). Navigating a difficult journey: Reflections on how a student-faculty partnership helped address racial tensions in a social science course. International Journal for Students as Partners, 1(2), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v1i2.3262

Reyes, V., & Adams, K. (2017b). A partnership approach to managing the challenge of apathetic and disruptive students. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(22). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss22/4

Shah, N., Reinholz, D. L., Guzman, L., Bradfield, K., Beaudine, G. & Low, S. (2016). Equitable participation in a mathematics classroom from a quantitative perspective. In M. Wood, E. Turner, & M. Civil (Eds.), Proceedings of the 38th annual meeting of the North-American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA), 1259–1265. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED583796.pdf

Signorini, A., & Pohan, C. (2019). Exploring the impact of The Students Assessing Teaching and Learning Program. International Journal for Students as Partners, 3(2), 139–148. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v3i2.3683

Smith, M. K., Jones, F. H., Gilbert, S. L., & Wieman, C. E. (2013). The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): A new instrument to characterize university STEM classroom practices. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 12(4), 618–627. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.13-08-0154

Tolnay, T. K., Spiegel, S., & Sherer, J. Z. (2017). Development of the engineering learning classroom observation tool (ELCOT). Association for Engineering Education - Engineering Library Division Papers. https://doi.org/10.18260/1-2--28176

Wolkoff, A. (2014). Reaching and learning as learning to be: Finding my place and voice as a leader. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education, 1(11). https://repository.brynmawr.edu/tlthe/vol1/iss11/4




How to Cite

Donahoe, E., Staggs, J., & Vargas, D. (2023). Employing customizable digital observation tools to support classroom-focused pedagogical partnership. International Journal for Students As Partners, 7(2), 124–141. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v7i2.5302



Case Studies