50+ Sample Observation Checklist Templates

What Is an Observation Checklist?

An observation checklist is a document that contains a list of questions that an observer must answer while observing or evaluating someone’s performance, skills, and other factors in the prepared criteria. In most cases, observation checklists apply to school-related assessments. As of 2017–2018, there were even 130,930 K–12 schools in the US, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). And an observation form is no stranger to each school since there are standards set on how teachers handle classes, what the school environment should be like, etc. Thanks to the checklist, observations run easily until gaps or issues that need to be solved will be identified. So, solutions and strategies will follow for development.


Based on a 2017–2018 survey, around 130,930 K–12 schools existed in America.

Also, the US Census Bureau reported that in 2017, approximately 76.4 million students were enrolled in school.

Meanwhile, NCES stated that nearly 3.3 million public school teachers, both full-time and part-time, worked in 2017–2018.

Why Are Observation Checklists Important?

Observation checklists are useful to prepare observation forms easily and quickly. Bear in mind that the checklist can work in two ways: (1) a list of how to prepare and make the observation form and (2) a list of what observers should observe. Users only need to depend on the checklist as they are guided on what to do first until last. More so, the checklist serves as a reliable assessment report tool. You can monitor what to observe, record, or evaluate in real-time. After following and answering the document, you gather insights about how a subject is doing and find out if the subject passes the standards or not.

Do not forget that observation checklists are versatile in terms of function. Indeed, you often see the checklist in school, like when a senior teacher evaluates how a new teacher’s performance. In fact, NCES said that about 3.3 million part-time and full-time public school teachers worked in 2017–2018. And observations are essential to check if every teacher is effectively doing their job. But aside from teaching, you can apply observations among customer service representatives, religious organizations, research enterprises, and even the general workplace setup. You can assess if an employee is fit enough to be a leader and in any context. Do not limit its uses.

Examples of Observation Checklists

Yes, observation checklists apply to various functions. But let us dig further into understanding how the checklist helps in each application. Besides understanding the list’s importance, it is vital to fully understand what it does and apply it in the first place. So without further ado, here are some of the common examples of observation checklists:

Teacher Observation Checklist: School administrators are familiar with the teacher observation checklist. This list is used to evaluate and monitor the performance of teachers. Does the teacher follow the lesson or unit plan rigidly? And does the teacher know how to spend time productively? Other questions related to the teacher’s performance will be tracked, thanks to the list. At the end of the day, educators will learn if their results were satisfactory or the other way around. If not, they will be taught on how to meet the school standards.Classroom Observation Checklist: Besides teachers, the classroom needs to be observed. And the classroom observation checklist is just the right tool for administrators to use in checking if the school’s learning environment is in good shape. Each student deserves the best experience down from comfort and safety. Keep in mind that a positive classroom environment is crucial to ensure teaching students will work effectively. Otherwise, noises, unsafe environments, and other distractions that may be around can affect the learning experience.Student Observation Checklist: When teachers need to evaluate students or students do the same to their classmates, student observation checklists come to play. A common example is when students do their reporting in school. How is each student’s behavior in interacting with classmates under group work? And is the student showing great leadership skills, impressive communication skills, and any other criteria? Note them down on the list. Teachers also comment on how students performed, in the end, to correct their mistakes and acknowledge their strengths.Employee Observation Checklist: An employee observation checklist focuses on assessing employees at work. The manager or HR might need to monitor workers if everyone is competent and responsible enough or just slacking off. And employee observations are commonly done at random so workers would not be staged in what they do in the workplace. There will be feedback given at the end to inform each worker about his or her results.Personal Observation Checklist: On another note, observation checklists work in psychological and personal applications. For example, is an individual having a behavior problem? Or maybe a person had a trauma since preschool and early childhood days? Thus, the list is just as useful in serious fields. And you can learn a lot from observing an individual.

What Are the Main Areas to Focus on Observation Checklists?

Generally, expect three main areas to focus on in an observation checklist. Each area plays a great role in ensuring you come up with effective observation forms. So if one factor is absent, there is a chance for the outcome in observations to be ineffective. Ensure that your observation checklist consists of the following:

Effective Planning

Any observation checklist should come with a proper strategic plan. Without a sense of preparedness, there is a big chance for the observation to be less effective than expected. Take time to plan how the observation form should turn out. There are many factors to consider, like the observation checklist’s design, format, and content.

Relevant Criteria

There are questions and criteria laid out in the form. But double-check if everything listed there is relevant to what you are observing. Maybe you failed a teacher for not discussing mathematics, yet he or she is an English teacher. It works best to prepare a questionnaire on what you can observe for your subject and that every question is relevant to your subject.

Feasible Checklist

Aside from relevance, feasibility is another important aspect to consider in the observation checklist. Maybe you wanted the teacher to finish discussing a long topic effectively in under five minutes. Do you think that is practical? Of course not. And the tip in considering how feasible the criteria and things to observe are is to evaluate your subject’s skills, behavior, and duration of services. But the criteria may depend on what context you evaluate and who your subject is.

How to Create an Observation Checklist

You just learned the observation checklist’s meaning, significance, examples, and key areas. Now apply all your knowledge in making the observation checklist itself. You will be guided, though, so expect the process to run easily. And in just four simple steps, you can create an efficient observation checklist in no time.

Step 1: Determine Your Main Purpose

First things first, what is your observation checklist for? Are you focusing on an employee observation checklist? Or perhaps, you need the checklist for evaluating students. There were even 76.4 million students enrolled in school last 2017. And it is no surprise how common student observation checklists are. But whatever your reason and purpose for the evaluation are, do not forget it. Otherwise, you might not come up with a checklist that is relevant to your main purpose.

Step 2: Download the Appropriate Template

Next, choose a template. Focus on getting the appropriate observation checklist template, and that is where your purpose is relevant. Do not choose a classroom observation template if you are working on personal observation. After downloading, you can already customize the template down from its style, format, and so forth. Tweak the template according to your desired output for the observation document. And fill in the rest of the details.

Step 3: List the Necessary Criteria and Questions

As you fill in the details, make sure to include the needed questions and criteria for the upcoming observations. In judging a student’s book report, you can observe the student’s engagement to the topic as your way to evaluate if he or she did some reading before even reporting. And for the employee observation checklist, ensure that you set job-related questions. You can also add choices in answering close-ended questions here.

Step 4: Polish the Checklist’s Design and Content

After you add everything in the template, polish your work. That means the list should not simply be enumerated but also arranged. Observe the right sequence, so you create a smooth flow when you follow the checklist. Most importantly, improve the checklist’s content and design. Maybe the list seems incomplete in detail, so you have to specify and expound on some parts further. Also, the design might seem bland. Enhance its presentation for a better effect. And once you are happy with the final touches, launch it.


What activities are involved in observations?

Observations involve certain activities, and they usually depend on what users want to observe. But in most cases, activities would include assessment, data collection, and evaluation.

Are observation checklists always effective?

An observation checklist’s effectiveness depends on how the list was crafted and how the observation was done. If it was meticulously planned and structured, then you have high hopes for its effects. But it may not work one hundred percent all the time. Therefore, you better give room for additional observations and not only focus on the checklist items.

What are the types of observations?

Observation consists of four basic types. They are the complete observer, complete participant, observer as a participant, and participant as an observer.

We are natural observers, but it does not imply we keep observing for no apparent cause. Observations gather insights, solutions, and strategies. Questions get answers, mysteries receive solutions, and problems have conclusions. Aim to observe meticulously in certain areas and learn from the results. You may be able to provide constructive criticisms and helpful feedback in the end, which can help your subjects afterward. And with observation checklists by your side, no observation has to turn to waste since you are guided right from the get-go.