Peer observation of teaching (POT) typically involves the review and delivery of feedback on an instructor’s teaching practices. In general, feedback obtained from the POT process can help instructors critically reflect upon and transform their teaching behaviors to enhance student learning (Brookfield, 1995; Fletcher, 2017).
Three models of POT described in the literature include:
The evaluation model typically involves a senior staff member observing, and making a judgement about the teaching performance of a junior colleague. Often the review is carried out for the purposes of tenure and promotion, or is a general assessment of teaching quality. In the development model, an educational developer or other expert instructor serves as the observer, utilizing expertise to evaluate teaching performance and provide feedback for improvement. Lastly, in the peer review model, a fellow instructor observes a peer often formatively, allowing for more mutualistic benefits.
To encourage a successful peer review process, scheduling a pre-observation and post-observation session is highly recommended. During the pre-observation meeting, pertinent information about the class to be observed is exchanged in addition to expectations for giving feedback. At the post-observation debriefing occurring soon after the observation, the observer provides feedback in a constructive, supportive manner.
More detail on running successful pre- and post-observation sessions can be found on the following document: Peer Observation of Teaching Handout.
Peer Observation of Teaching Forms: Fletcher et al. (2017) provides template forms useful for structuring the POT process.
Peer Observation of Teaching Handbook: Please see a guidebook produced by Harvard Medical School to inform peer observation process.
Standardizing the Peer Observation of Feedback Process: Instructors may ask observers to use established protocols or inventories for their classroom observations. An advantage to using such protocols is their ability to allow comparisons to be made across classes and raters (Hora and Ferrare, 2013). Protocols differ in whether they: assess teaching using criteria or focus mostly on describing teaching behaviors; use high, medium or low level specificity in evaluating teaching behaviors; focus on the instructor, student or both; consider the content being taught; and have high, medium or low, structure. Some protocols focus on teaching within particular disciplines (e.g. STEM). Many protocols require training, with varying degrees of time commitment. A few notable instruments include:
Brookfield S. (1995). Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Fletcher JA. (2017). Peer Observation of Teaching: A Practical Tool in Higher Education. Journal of Faculty Development 32(1): 1-14.
Hora MT & Ferrare JJ. (2013). A review of classroom observation techniques in postsecondary settings (WCER Working Paper 2013-1). Retrieved from University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research website.