Peer Observation of Teaching

Good teachers continually learn and develop. Peer Review, which combines the examination of course materials with in-class observations and collegial discussion, helps prompt this learning among faculty. Ideally, these interactions and conversations can create opportunities for us as colleagues to reflect on and adapt our teaching practices in order to become better teachers and increase student learning.

This information aims to assist each department in developing a customized system of Peer Review appropriate to its particular discipline. We envision the following steps in developing this customized system:

Step 1:  Framing Departmental Discussions:  The academic department addresses key questions and decisions about core purposes, terms, and practices associated with its specific peer review process.

Step 2:  Implementing Peer Observation of Teaching:  Peer observation, a vital part of peer review, generally consists of pre-observation, observation, and post-observation, and may include a reflective summary.


STEP 1: FRAMING DEPARTMENTAL DISCUSSIONS

The UT System cites two purposes for peer review of teaching:

1.  Formative peer review of teaching to help instructors enhance teaching and learning in their courses. 

Formative peer review gives instructors opportunities to consider, modify, and reexamine their teaching with the support of their colleagues by using a shared understanding of good teaching. Frequent formative peer review naturally provides an ongoing process that can contribute meaningfully to summative peer review by demonstrating a trajectory of improvement in teaching over time.

2.  Summative peer review of teaching to evaluate and assess as part of a formal reward system used in merit, promotion, and tenure decisions.

Summative peer review uses the same understanding of good teaching as a criterion for making required decisions about compensation and promotion.

These two purposes are discrete but complementary.

Additional questions for departmental discussion are included below:

  • What is good teaching?
  • What policies and practices support peer review of teaching?
  • Who is a peer?

STEP 2: IMPLEMENTING PEER OBSERVATION OF TEACHING

Pre-Observation

Pre-observation is a two-part process consisting of 1) closely examining the course materials an instructor has organized to support student learning, and 2) engaging in purposeful conversation with the instructor about class expectations and context; these will provide necessary background for the observation. 

Observation

A focused and purposeful inquiry into observable individual and group behaviors in a specific class to help both instructor and observer “see” teaching and learning from a different perspective.

Post-Observation

The post-observation is a follow-up meeting of the observer and instructor to bring impressions from the materials' review and the observation together in a mutual conversation about teaching and learning.

Reflective Summary

A reflective summary is a brief, written analysis by the instructor and possibly the peer observer of what was learned about teaching and student learning. It is an opportunity to turn teaching experience into learning.

  • What is your take-away about your teaching? About student learning?
  • What questions about teaching and learning have emerged from this process?
  • What changes might make the peer observation process more helpful?