Recent Articles

Agnosticism in instructional observation systems


  • Sean Kelly University of Pittsburgh



instructional practices, school/teacher effectiveness, observational research


Many instructional observation systems are designed to provide rough, qualitative, highly-evaluative assessments on numerous core dimensions of teaching. Such systems achieve comprehensive overviews of teaching but are poorly suited to answering many discovery-oriented research questions. In contrast, fine-grained agnostic systems are needed to pose and answer causal questions about instruction, and to fully understand instructional variation and change. More speculatively, I argue that the agnostic quality of fine-grained systems may also be useful in promoting teacher learning. Agnostic systems offer choice, withhold judgement, make room for locally-compensatory practices, and promote a greater locus of control. Instructional observation systems that carefully and agnostically quantify instructional processes may best help teachers leverage their professional judgment and invigorate their professional practice.  


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Sean Kelly, University of Pittsburgh

Sean Kelly is a Full Professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh. He studies the social organization of schools, student engagement, and teacher effectiveness. He currently serves as co-editor of the American Educational Research Journal.


Additional Files



How to Cite

Kelly, S. (2023). Agnosticism in instructional observation systems. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 31.