Since the last 6 years I have been working on different projects including classroom observation in primary and secondary schools. Recently I got a chance to work in Tamil Nadu on a project called “Time-on-Task”. This project was executed using Stalling’s Classroom Observation System with the help of World Bank, Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) and State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT). The aim of this project was to observe and analyze Time spent on different activities by a teacher and students during one class period.


Stalling’s Classroom Observation System was developed by Dr. Stallings in the 1970’s to evaluate how elementary teachers and students use their time in classrooms. This system was modified from time to time to use in middle schools, high schools, and continuation schools as well. Over a period of time, this methodology has been evolved and used successfully in multiple international projects to observe classrooms.


Now it is important to know what is Time-On-Task?

Time-on-task is defined as the percentage of classroom time when students are actively engaged in learning process. When students are actively engaged in learning, they are: Focused, Listening, Reading, Writing, Discussing, and Learning. Time on task refers to the amount of time during a class period in which a teacher is actively engaged in teaching and/or students are actually engaged in assigned learning tasks related to curriculum content. So basically, the term is used to define the amount of time students are actually engaged in learning tasks.

How “Stallings Classroom Snapshot Method” works:

A class period time is divided in 10 equal sections and total 10 snapshots are taken in a class period. Each section is observed in first 10-15 seconds using Classroom Snapshot method. The Classroom Snapshot records the environment and the participants in the classroom as if they were being photographed at one instant. It records every person in the classroom in the activity they are engaged, shows that who they are engaged with, and what material they are using. Apart from this, observer can also note down any specific activity noticed during those 10-15 second’s observation. Later this data is analyzed and one can have findings from real classroom. EI developed Stallings tool in form of software which was installed on Tablets and classroom observation was done first time on Tablet.

Before observation, observer is ready with demographic information e.g. the school name, class, subject, number of student gender wise, start time of period etc. Teachers, at the beginning, are briefed to take the class as they always do. The observer sits in one corner of the room from where he has a clear view of the whole class, the teacher and all the students. He also is expected to position himself in a way that keeps him from becoming an obvious distracter for the students or to alter the classroom environment to the minimal.

Based on my experience of executing the tool in 84 schools of Tamil Nadu, some of the benefits of the tool in my experience are:

  • Actual time being spent in classroom by a teacher on different activities can be revealed.
  • Student engagement in learning process can be identified.
  • Academic and non-academic activities can be segregated from a class period time.
  • Data can be used to show how a teacher can be focused on different type of learning activities during a classroom.
  • Best teaching practices can be shown to the teachers and best teaching process can be standardized.
  • Results and recommendations can be used in Teacher Training.

Time-on-Task study in India

A study in primary classrooms of three Indian states was administered in 2007. Later “Time-on-Task” study in Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu was administered by Educational Initiatives (EI) in year 2015-2016.

My experience from this study using Stallings tool

I was closely involved in the project administered by EI in secondary schools of Tamil Nadu. Observers were trained by the World Bank’s Master Trainer and EI Master Trainers in 3 day training workshop. Observers were selected to go for observation based on merit list of post training test scores. I found this method effective for classroom observation.

Since we capture 10 photographs/observations of 10-15 seconds each in 10 equal intervals, this method was able to captures whole activity happening in the classroom. It also includes a single student’s activity whether it is similar to other students or different. Another experience, using this tool on digital platform using tablet proved to be really effective and systematic because dividing classroom period time in 10 equal intervals was calculated by the system itself. Post observation, the data was immediately synchronized to the server using internet, thereby reducing chances of error or loss of data.


By Kashi Nath Jha – Educational Specialist

Kashi Nath Jha

Kashi Nath Jha

"Kashi works as an associate manager in the Large Scale Education Programmes (LSEP) division at EI. As a passionate development professional, he has been associated with the organization for more than seven years now. During his tenure, he has been a part of and led various key projects of student assessment, research, and implementation of Mindspark (EdTech) in various states. The clients include state governments, SCERT, DIETs, government schools, GIF, J-PAL, P&G, HZL, NSEF, KPMG, World Bank, UNICEF, MSDF, et al. Given his hands-on grass-root experience, his expertise lies in managing large-scale projects including planning, budgeting, stakeholder management, implementation, and government liaison. Apart from work, Kashi enjoys traveling, exploring geographies, and playing chess and badminton".
Kashi Nath Jha