General | February 17, 2017

The Difference between Traditional and Individualized Observations

Since launching the idea of Individualized Observations and Pro+ two weeks ago, we’ve had a groundswell of interest. We’re extremely excited about the dialogue this has opened up!

We’ve also received a ton of questions. Beyond the product and technology questions, the most interesting questions have been about how Individualized Observations differ from regular observations and why they will create a teacher driven movement. To review, Individualized Observations are videos where you see and hear each individual student in class with ease. For more detailed information, check out our launch post.

Let’s start with the first difference that is the elephant in the room. Time. Traditional observations take time to capture, share, review and provide feedback. We’ve seen our fair share of these 20min+ videos and they lack both the substance to make them valuable and demand so much time to manage that teachers simply don’t want to do them frequently. Observations will never be essential to teachers if they remain this way.

We’ve also seen our fair share of 5 minute videos that were revealing, drove new insight and were convenient to capture, share, review and dialogue around. This is what individualized observations are about. Focused, contained efforts to yield new collective insight and plans. And setting this expectation is critical to shifting perspectives of what observations can do.

The second, and perhaps most important difference, is motivation. Currently teachers do observations out of either mandate by an administrator or a highly admirable virtue of self improvement. Individualized observations can leverage these motivations too. But as we’ve all seen, these are not sufficient for observations to create real, lasting change across a school. To do that, you need something more compelling and sustaining.

To us what is more compelling and sustaining is curiosity. Good teachers are constantly curious about their students’ current understanding, skills, behavior, thoughts and feelings. This is an essential quality for a teacher to achieve true personalization of learning. But traditional observations reveal little new understanding, specifically with regard to students. As a result, they hardly ever recruit a teacher’s curiosity about their students as a motivating force for change. Individualized observations can change this.

Here are the level differences between Traditional and Individualized Observations.

Difference Traditional Observations Individualized Observations
Focus of observation Teacher or general class activity. Students with a specific focus on an activity, group dynamic, etc.
Length of capture Long format. Dictated by program or accreditation organizations. Short format. Any length depending on what a Teacher needs to observe.
Motivation Mandate by administrators or virtue of self improvement. A teacher’s curiosity about their students in the interest of personalization.


While the top level differences are important, we believe there are a range of other equally important, but slightly more nuanced differences between the two. They are summarized below. We’ll follow up with more detailed analyses of these differences in subsequent posts.

Difference Traditional Observations Individualized Observations
When they are done Scheduled bi-weekly, monthly or by semester. Based on lesson plan and what teachers are curious to learn about their students.
Who is observing? Mentors, coaches or administrators. Peers with occasional involvement by coaches.
Kinds of feedback Comparison with best practices Collective interpretation and follow up suggestions by individual, group or class.
Anticipated outcome Evaluation and generalized feedback. Deeper understanding and improved quality of instruction for each student.


Looking at them all together, it’s not hard to see why we’re excited about the potential of Individualized Observations. But the most important one is the motivation to do them. Leveraging a teacher’s own curiosity about their students can be a powerful motivating force to sustain progress and affect change.

Interested in a webinar on how Individualized observations can be done with our Pro+ and C-Series Technology? You can sign up now!

Are you a teacher? Check out the Pioneer program we’ve started to build and industry wide movement using Individualized Observations.