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Systematic observation in educational research

This is the study programme for 2020/2021.

The course presents a broad orientation on central issues on research applying systematic observation in education. The course introduces students to research on classroom interaction and methodological aspects of such research. Further, the course offers an introduction to research design particularly related to systematic observation. Aspects of validity, reliability and research ethics in observational studies are addressed. Also, combining observation and other data sources will be addressed.

Learning outcome

  • By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will:Have a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding systematic classroom observation
  • Have knowledge of research design in observational studies
  • Have knowledge of classroom research and the combination of observational data with other data sources
  • Have knowledge of Classroom assessment scoring system (CLASS) and similar research protocols.
  • By completion of this course, the PhD candidate will have gained the following skills:
      design systematic observational studies
    • consider aspects of validity and reliability of systematic observation studies
    • consider weaknesses and strengths of systematic observation studies
    • critically evaluate aspects of classroom observation studies and apply observational research design to their own research
  • General competencies: Gain:
      Knowledge on research approaches to classroom interaction processes and their impact on students’ learning outcome
    • Knowledge on systematic classroom observation
    • Knowledge on theoretical and methodological variety in systematic classroom (observation) research
  • Contents

    The course consists of three parts:
    1. Participation in a two day Nordic workshop on systematic observation. At the workshop the students will meet updated knowledge on systematic observation in educational research from international researchers in the field, and take part of discussions and seminars.
    2. Two days on campus with lectures going into depth of some themes relevant for the subject.
    3. In addition a reading component is included that provide participants containing key literature in the field that prepare participants for the workshop and the required documentation.

    The two day workshop will contain lectures that introduce participants to the use of systematic observation in research in kindergarten through high school. During the two days, there will also be lectures addressing methodological aspects of systematic observation (e.g. validity, reliability, and combination with different data sources). Additional, seminars will provide opportunities for participants to put questions related to their own work up for discussion in round table sessions.
    Required documentation for participants is either a paper based on a manuscript for a presentation in the seminar part of the workshop or an essay on a topic relevant for the workshop. Participants may alternatively choose to present a poster prepared before the workshop and a short oral presentation of the poster at the workshop. Relevant literature for the reading list are to be included in the paper/essay.
    Responsible for the course: Associate professor Elsa Westergård, Professor Sigrun K. Ertesvåg,
    Guest lecturer:
    Professor Marja Kristiina Lerkkanen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland/ NSLA, UoS.

    Required prerequisite knowledge


    Recommended previous knowledge

    Participants must meet the requirements for enrollment in PhD programs. Participants will benefit from in-depth knowledge of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) or similar observation protocols.


    Weight Duration Marks Aid
    Manuscript for oral presentation1/120 minutesPass - Fail
    Evaluation will be based on an individual paper (3000 words +/- 10%) addressing systematic observation or on a manuscript for oral presentation in the seminar part of the workshop (3000 words +/- 10%) or a poster prepared before, and presented at the workshop and a manuscript for a short oral presentation of the poster (poster and 1500 word +/- 10%). The paper may be written in English or in a Scandinavian language. The paper is evaluated pass/fail.
    Deadline for handing in the individual paper: November 1st

    Coursework requirements

    Active participation in lectures and seminars at the workshop. Self-study. At least 75% attendance in lectures and seminars.

    Course teacher(s)

    Course coordinator
    Sigrun Karin Ertesvåg , Elsa Westergård

    Method of work

    The course will consist of lectures and seminars during the two day workshop. The seminar part welcomes different types of discussions e.g. round table discussion based on participants ongoing work. There will be possibilities for PhD-students to present their work in posters (A0 or A1 format). The PhD-student provides a short oral presentation for each poster to the audience as part of the last session on day 1.

    Open to

    International and local students enrolled in a doctoral program. Applicants may be turned down due limitations in the number of places (max. 15 participants).

    Workshop language is English, thus English is the teaching language.

    Course assessment

    A dialogue with the students to gain information for similar courses in the future


    Bell, C.A., QI, Y., Croft, A., Leusner, D., McCaffrey, D.F., Gitomer, D.& Pianta, R.C. (2014) Improving Observational Score Quality: Challenges in observation thinking. In: T.J. Kane, K.A. Kerr & R.C. Pianta (Eds) Designing teaching evaluation systems -New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project .Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. p. 50-97. file:///C:/Users/2900198/Downloads/Designing-Teacher-Evaluation-Systems_freePDF.pdf ( 47p)
    Gamlem, S. M., & Munthe, E. (2014). Mapping the quality of feedback to support students' learning in lower secondary classrooms. Cambridge Journal of Education, 44(1), 75-92 (17p)
    Grossman,P., Cohen, J. & Brown, L. (2014) Understanding Instructional Quality in English Language Arts: Variations in PLATO Scores by Content and Context. In T. J. Kane, K. A. Kerr, & R. C. Pianta (Eds.),Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (pp. 303-332). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Brand (29p) Available online: file:///C:/Users/2900198/Downloads/Designing-Teacher-Evaluation-Systems_freePDF.pdf
    Hallgren, K. (2012) Computing Inter-Rater Reliability for Observational Data: An Overview and Tutorial .Tutor Quant Methods Psychol. 8(1): 23–34. (11p)
    Hamre,B.K., Hatfield,B., Pianta, R. & Jamil,F. (2014) Evidens for general and domain-specific elements of teacher-child interactions: Associations with preschool children’s development. Child development. 85(3) 1257-74.(17p)
    Hamre, B. K., Pianta, R. C., Downer, J. T., DeCoster, J., Mashburn, A. J., Jones, S. M., . . . Hamagami, A. (2013). Teaching through interactions: Testing a developmental framework of teacher effectiveness in over 4,000 classrooms. The Elementary School Journal, 113(4), 461-487.(15p)
    Joe, J. N., McClellan, C. A., & Holtzman, S. L. (2014). Scoring Design Decisions: Reliability and the Length and Focus of Classroom Observations. In T. J. Kane, K. A. Kerr, & R. C. Pianta (Eds.),Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (pp. 415-442). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Brand Available online: file:///C:/Users/2900198/Downloads/Designing-Teacher-Evaluation-Systems_freePDF.pdf (27p)
    Klette, Kirsti & Blikstad-Balas, Marte (2018). Observation manuals as lenses to classroom teaching: Pitfalls and possibilities. European Educational Research Journal. ISSN 1474-9041. 17(1), s 129- 146 . doi: 10.1177/1474904117703228 (17 p)
    Klette, Kirsti; Blikstad-Balas, Marte & Roe, Astrid (2017). Linking instruction and student achievement: research design for a new generation of classroom studies. 11(3), . doi: 10.5617/adno.4729 (19 p)
    Opdenakker, M-C, Maulana, R. & den Brok, P. (2012)Teacher–student interpersonal relationships and academic motivation within one school year: developmental changes and linkage, School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 23:1, 95-119,
    Pakarinen, E., Lerkkanen, M.-K., Poikkeus, A.-M., Kiuru, N., Siekkinen, M., Rasku-Puttonen, H. & Nurmi, J.-E. (2010). A validation of the classroom assessment scoring system in Finnish kindergartens. Early Education and Development, 21(1), 95-124. (29 p)
    Park, Y.S., Chen; J. & Holtzman, S.L. (2014) Evaluating Efforts to Minimize Rater Bias in Scoring Classroom Observations In T. J. Kane, K. A. Kerr, & R. C. Pianta (Eds.),Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (pp. 383-414) . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Brand (31 p) Available online: file:///C:/Users/2900198/Downloads/Designing-Teacher-Evaluation-Systems_freePDF.pdf
    Pianta, R., Hamre, B., & Allen, J. (2012). Teacher-Student Relationships and Engagement: Conceptualizing, Measuring and Improving the Capacity of Classroom Interaction. In S. L. Christenston, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of Student Engagement (pp. 365-386). New York: Springer. (21p)
    Pianta, R.C., Hamre, B. & Mintz, S. (2012) Classroom Assessment Scoring System –Secondary. Teachstone. Charlottesville, VA. (or other version of the CLASS manual) (126 s)
    Prain, M. I., McVilly, K. R., & Ramcharan, P. (2012). Being reliable: issues in determining the reliability and making sense of observations of adults with congenital deafblindness? Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 56, 6 pp 632–640. (8 p).
    Praetoriuos, A.-K, Lenske, G, & Helmke, A. (2012) Observer ratings of instructional quality: Do they fulfill what they promise? Learning and Instruction, 22(1), 387-400. (13p)
    Salminen, J., Hännikäinen, M., Poikonen, P.-L., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2013). A Descriptive Case Analysis of Instructional Teaching Practices in Finnish Preschool Classrooms. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 27 (2), 127-152. (25 p) doi:DOI: 10.1080/02568543.2013.767289 https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/handle/123456789/41162
    Westergård, E., Ertesvåg, S.K. & Rafaelsen, F. (2018) A preliminary validity study of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System in Norwegian lower secondary schools. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research ( 19 p)
    In total: 498 pages
    Suggested additional literature
    Malmberg, L.-E., Hagger, H., Burn, K., Mutton, T., and Colls, H. (2010). Observed Classroom Quality During Teacher Education and Two Years of Professional Practice, Journal of Educational Psychology,102, 4, 916–932. (16 p)
    Ruzek, E.A., Hafen, C. A., Hamre, B.K. & Pianta, P.C. (2014) Combining Classroom Observations and Value Added for the Evaluation and Professional Development of Teachers. In T. J. Kane, K. A. Kerr, & R. C. Pianta (Eds.) Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project (pp. 205-233). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass A Wiley Brand (28p) Available online: file:///C:/Users/2900198/Downloads/Designing-Teacher-Evaluation-Systems_freePDF.pdf
    Salminen, J., Lerkkanen, M.-K., Poikkeus, A.-M., Siekkinen, M., Pakarinen, E., Hännikäinen, M., Poikonen, P.-L., & Rasku-Puttonen, H. (2012). Observed classroom quality profiles in kindergarten classrooms in Finland. Early Education & Development. 23 (5), 654-677. (23 p) doi:10.1080/10409289.2011.574267 https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/handle/123456789/40852
    Sandilos, L. E., Shervey, S. W., DiPerna, J. C., Lei, P., & Cheng, W. (2016, May 12). Structural Validity of CLASS K–3 in Primary Grades: Testing Alternative Models. School Psychology Quarterly. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/spq0000155
    Virtanen, T. e., Pakarinen, E., Lerkkanen, M., -K., Poikkeus, A.-M., Siekkinen, M., & Nurmi, J.-E. (2017). A Validation Study of Classroom Assessment Scoring System–Secondary in the Finnish School Context. Journal of Early Adolescence. doi:DOI: 10.1177/0272431617699944
    In total: 110 pages
    Vi gjør oppmerksom på at det kan noen endringer i pensum våren 2019.

    This is the study programme for 2020/2021.

    Sist oppdatert: 11.08.2020