Generalized Observation & Reflection Protocol (GORP) Tool Pilot 2015

During the spring 2015, BU STEM together with IS&T is running a pilot program to test the GORP tool for classroom observations. GORP is a platform for observing classroom behaviors, a generic application for recording what happens around learning activities in the lecture hall, classroom, discussion section, field and/or laboratory. The tool is being developed by a team at UC Davis and is being piloted at 40 institutions, BU among them.GORP

GORP provides a simple, flexible interface for classroom observations. The tool is discipline independent, non-judgmental (no value ratings), and requires only 1.5 hours of training for high inter-rater reliability. The data collected shows how time is spent in the classroom, not whether it is valuably spent. The tool was developed using a particular observation protocol, COPUS, but in the future the tool can be edited to reflect different priorities and local needs. In COPUS, an observer is asked to record what the instructor is doing, what the students are doing, and the level of engagement of the students. The tool requires little judgment on the part of the observer and after a brief amount of training, good inter-rater reliability (>90%) can be obtained. In its final form, it will allow for creating new protocols for observing a wide variety of classroom activities.

Contact: or contact Bennett Goldberg or Nicholas Gross.

The long-term goals of developing and providing access to GORP at Boston University are:

  • To Engage Faculty in Course Transformation: Faculty need a means to simply assess what’s going on their classes. Analysis of GORP data can provide faculty with important information about use of class time and student engagement that can lead to meaningful course transformation.
  • To Complement Digital Learning: As learning moves into a more digital realm, and as blended learning becomes more common on the BU campus, understanding what kinds of classroom interactions happen will be important for making the value argument for high-engagement residential undergraduate education. To what degree does in-class education need to evolve to be complementary to the growth of digital learning? GORP can help answer this.
  • To Measure Classroom Behaviors: GORP is universal, and can be simply tailored to faculty, groups of courses, a department, or a college. While GORP does not measure student learning outcomes directly, it can measure classroom behaviors. Evidence from other universities shows that increases in active-learning behaviors are well-correlated with improved learning outcomes.

Pilot project design and timeline:

The GORP pilot project’s goal is to perform of 100 classroom observations by the end of the spring semester. The secondary goals are to analyze the observations, implement and understand the general utility of the GORP tool, and create a network of students and faculty interested in advancing classroom observations as a tool to improve teaching.

Roles and responsibilities of faculty, staff and students in the BU-GORP-Pilot-2015:

STEM faculty and IS&T Staff: STEM Ed faculty (B. Goldberg and N. Gross) and IS&T staff (D. Screnci, R. Jaeckel, K. Cleary) are responsible for all organization and operation of the pilot program. STEM Ed and IS&T will work together to ensure security, STEM Ed will be in charge of identifying faculty, training student observers, and IS&T in charge of the data, access and server systems.

Faculty allowing their classes to be observed: Faculty have been recruited and have given permission to have their classrooms observed as part of the GORP pilot. Faculty will have access only to observation data about their class. Any reports or presentations of the data will be de-identified, without faculty name, time of the class, or identifying characteristics. Only general characteristics will be provide, including size, style, and discipline. Faculty can withdraw from the pilot and anytime, and request that their data be deleted.

Student observers: Undergraduates beyond their third semester have been recruited and paid to partake in the GORP pilot. We have recruited exclusively from the Learning Assistant program. ( They have been trained by STEM Ed faculty in use of the protocol, using materials provided by UC Davis. Students will be instructed to be discreet, meet the professor prior to every observation, and follow a set of procedures for each observation. Once uploaded into the system, students will not have access to the data.