Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP)

Developed by Daiyo Sawada, Michael D. Piburn, Kathleen Falconer, Jeff Turley, and Irene Bloom

Purpose To measure the extent to which interactive and student-centered techniques are used in a given classroom.
Format Observation protocol
Duration N/A min
Focus Teaching
Level Graduate, Upper-level, Intermediate, Intro college, High school, Middle school, Other

The following is a sample of the RTOP (specifically, the first cluster):

I. Lesson Design and Implementation

1. The instructional strategies and activities respected students' prior knowledge and the preconceptions inherent therein.

2. The lesson was designed to engage students as members of a learning community.

3. In this lesson, student exploration preceded formal presentation.

4. This lesson encouraged students to seek and value alternative modes of investigation or of problem solving.

5. The focus and direction of the lesson was often determined by ideas originating with students.


RTOP Implementation Guide

Everything you need to know about implementing the RTOP in your class.

D. Sawada, M. Piburn, E. Judson, J. Turley, K. Falconer, R. Benford, and I. Bloom, Measuring Reform Practices in Science and Mathematics Classrooms: The Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol, Sch. Sci. & Math. 102 (6), 245 (2002).
External Resources

RTOP Developers Website, including the online version of an RTOP teacher workshop

RTOP Reference Manual

RTOP YouTube channel, with training videos

more details
Gold Star Validation
This is the highest level of research validation, corresponding to all seven of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Classroom behavior

Studied Using:

  • Iterative observations
  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Training materials

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The items on the RTOP were developed based on previous research and existing instruments. These initial items were used to observe video of classrooms by five experts, and the items were revised. The RTOP was tested with math faculty, and then substantially revised based on their feedback. The revised version was used to assess 17 twenty minute videotaped mathematics or science lessons, and inter-rater reliability calculated. The developers also created an "Annotated RTOP Guide" to document the growing inter-rater consensus about how each item should be interpreted. The RTOP was pilot tested with with 16 pairs of observations and inter-rater reliability calculated for the total score and the sub-scales. The RTOP has been used to observe over 400 K–20 science and mathematics classrooms, and the results are published in many peer-reviewed publications.  


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Language Translator(s)  
Chinese Weining Wu
Japanese Sachiko Tosa

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Typical Results

Typical scores for physics class taught with different teaching methods from MacIsaac and Falconer 2002:


Typical scores for math and science classes at different types of institutions from Sawada et al. 2002:



There is only one version of the RTOP.