Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS)

Instructors, and the teaching practices they employ, play a critical role in improving student learning in college Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses. Consequently, there is increasing interest in collecting information on the range and frequency of teaching practices at department-wide and institution-wide scales. To help facilitate this process, we developed a classroom observation protocol known as the Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM or COPUS. This protocol was adapted from the Teaching Dimensions Observation Protocol (TDOP) (M.T. Hora, A. Oleson, J.J. Ferrare, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison). The COPUS allows observers, after a short 1.5 hour training period, to reliably characterize how faculty and students are spending their time in the classroom.

Development article: The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): a New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices Michelle Smith, Francis Jones, Sarah Gilbert, and Carl Wieman, CBE-Life Sciences Education, Vol 12(4), pp. 618-627 (2013).

Paper version: COPUS observation protocol

Digital (spreadsheet) version: COPUS Excel file for recording observations and tallying results

Training: COPUS training guide and see the TRESTLE network page on COPUS training

Further detailed descriptions of codes, also available from the TRESTLE COPUS page


A comparison of COPUS results from two courses that have different instructional approaches:

pie charts of student and instructor activities measured by COPUS