Background on Peer Review of Teaching
This resource was developed to help guide departments in the design of their own peer observation process. Following release of the 2013 UT System mandate, the Provost Teaching Fellows, in collaboration with the Faculty Innovation Center, accepted responsibility for guiding the campus discussion and for developing this resource.
Two assumptions guided our deliberations:
- The focus of any peer observation process should be, first and foremost, a process aligned with faculty development
- Departments should develop their own Peer Review of Teaching process rather than implement a University mandated "one size fits all" initiative.
Two campus conversations were conducted in Spring-2014 to assess the scope of what was being done in regards to peer observation, and to identify the issues that needed to be addressed going forward in meeting the System mandate. It was clear from the discussion that many departments/schools/colleges want to move forward in developing or modifying systematic methods for peer observation and to explore the experiences of others on campus, share best practices, and use a “grass roots” faculty-based process to develop their own, local, departmental approach.
Together we led a campus-wide “Learning Community on Peer Observation” was initiated in late spring-2014 to support these shared interests. This group met over summer-2014 to develop the resource represented by this web portal. Our approach is, by design, not prescriptive. Rather, the intent is to provide principles, questions, and suggestions to help guide departmental deliberations as they develop their own systematic approach to peer observation, with a primary focus on faculty development. The Learning Community is not done with its work; it is expected that it will continue to be a focal point for campus conversations on peer observation going forward.
Teaching is complex, in part because its goal is to create opportunities for students to master facts and procedures and develop conceptual and disciplinary understandings. As a result, instructors always have room for learning—regardless of years of experience, rank, successes, and professional recognitions. This learning can occur in collegial relationships that push us to develop our visions of teaching and encounter perspectives different from our own. Peer review of teaching can offer opportunities to engage in this kind of learning (Schoenfeld, 2013).
Creating a system for peer review is not simply adopting a checklist, tool, instrument, or technique that others have devised. We envision departments constructing a customized tool for ongoing development that builds on what its instructors know and need to support their own as well as their students’ learning. This task requires initial and ongoing involvement of administrators and faculty in a series of departmental decisions and discussions about what they want to achieve though peer review and how they will realize those goals. These discussions allow a department to create common understandings, generate buy-in, and tailor peer review of teaching to the unique and specific culture, needs, and traditions of department and discipline.