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Peer Observation…. Adapted from Dr. Tine Reimers’ Presentation, September 2009. A Measure to Document Good Teaching Harry Meeuwsen. Your Reasons for Being Here:. Jumping in Cold: A Sample Observation. Your Observations. Problems with This Manner of Observing?.

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peer observation
Peer Observation…

Adapted from Dr. Tine Reimers’ Presentation, September 2009

A Measure to Document Good Teaching

Harry Meeuwsen

problems with this manner of observing
Problems with This Manner of Observing?
  • How prepared where you for this observation?
  • What tool did you use to document what you saw?
  • How would you conduct the debrief?
the sample observation
The Sample Observation

If you wanted to do this right, what would you do?

  • Prior to…
  • During…
  • After…
what is peer observation
What is Peer Observation?

Peer observation is the process by which university instructors provide feedback to colleagues on their teaching efforts and practices.

why peer observation of teaching
Why Peer Observation of Teaching?
  • Required for tenure application (summative by chairs)
  • Documenting your teaching skills
    • Documentation for awards, tenure/promotion, personal reasons
  • Improvement of personal and program teaching practice
    • Use it with a specific focus (formative)
  • Annual evaluation of your teaching
    • PARF; College evaluation requirements (summative)
  • Conversation starter about teaching in department
  • Develop a network of mentors and supporting peers
  • Etc.
peers are most qualified to judge
Peers are most qualified to judge:
  • Mastery of course content
  • Selection of course content
  • Course organization and integration
  • Appropriateness of course objectives
  • Appropriateness of instructional materials (i.e. readings, media)
  • Appropriateness of evaluative devices (i.e., exams, written assignments)
  • Appropriateness of methodology used to teach specific content
  • Commitment to teaching and concern for student learning
  • Student achievement based on performance on exams, projects
  • Support of departmental instructional efforts
strengths and weaknesses
Strengths and Weaknesses
  • The major strengths of peer observation are:
  • The major weaknesses of peer observation are:
strengths and weaknesses1
Strengths and Weaknesses
  • The major strengths of peer observation are:
    • Peers are familiar with college goals, priorities, values, faculty problems
    • Peer observation helps faculty upgrade their own profession
    • Peer observers can be chosen from instructor's content area
    • Peer observers are best trained to observe certain aspects of teaching
  • The major weaknesses of peer observation are:
    • Data is often biased due to previous data, personal relationships, peer pressure
    • Concerns about peer relationships that may suffer
    • Possible bias due to observer's preference for own teaching methods
    • Misalignment of beliefs and assumptions about teaching and learning
    • Time intensive and requires training and commitment

Peer observation is time-consuming, but one useful part of a peer evaluation process.

for peer observation for formative purposes to be effective
For peer observation for formative purposes to be effective,

it must respond to the concerns and self-perceived needs of the instructor who requests it.

It must also be carried out by someone who is trusted and holds the respect of the person whose teaching is being assessed.

where we can make visible what we do the roles of a faculty member
Where we can make visible what we do(the roles of a faculty member):
  • Integrated course design (curriculum; outcomes, assessment, activities)
  • Your syllabus (learner oriented)
  • Assessment of student learning (CATs, Testing, Grading, Tracking)
  • Contribution to curriculum (how does your course fit?)
  • Presentation of material (lectures, visual aids, online)
  • Activity design/intellectual engagement of students
  • Quality of interaction with students during/outside of class
  • Directing independent study and research
  • Advising (career) and mentoring of students
  • Supervision of graduate and undergraduate TA’s
  • Scholarly teaching (research-based design of courses and teaching)
  • Scholarship of Teaching (research presentations, articles on teaching)


What are the instructional activities you would expect to see when watching an instructor use the following methods or techniques?

  • Problem Solving/Case Analysis
  • Lecture
necessary alignment of expectations
Necessary Alignment of Expectations

Teaching method

Problem-solving or case analysis

Instructor’s activity to be evaluated

Learning Outcomes

Design of Problem or Case

Organization of materials

Structure of the activity

Management of the classroom process and environment

Summary and closing

necessary alignment of expectations1
Necessary Alignment of Expectations

Teaching method

Lecture, Information Transfer

Instructor’s activity to be evaluated

Learning Outcomes

Selection of material

Organization of material to help student memory

Clarity, accuracy of presentation

Enthusiasm, encouragement of student interest

Translation from abstract to concrete

Opportunities for students to think

conducting any effective peer observation requires that the observer
Conducting ANY effective peer observation requires that the observer. . .
  • …knows the instructor’s objectives for the session (what the students should be able to do).
  • …understands how the instructor has defined his/her role for the session observed.
  • …learns the instructor’s expectations for what will actually happen in the session observed.
basic 3 part peer observation process
Basic 3-part Peer Observation Process
  • Observer and Observee meet to plan visitation.
  • Observation occurs, using pre-determined instrument or guide (agreed to by both).
  • Observer and Observee meet to exchange observations and feedback.
  • Creation of a written record.

(as a feedback reference; evaluation documentation)


Are you doing this observation for the purpose of developing the


or for the purpose of taking a




The Story:classroom observation generates feedback designed to help “observee” improve his/her teaching over time.

Formative Assessment

Analogue: We ask students to do homework, solve practice problems, write short papers without grades, so they’ll have a chance to improve.


The Snapshot:classroom observation helps a department to determine how one person’s teaching compares either to a standard or to the teaching of other colleagues.

Summative Assessment

Analogue: We administer final, common exams in order to determine how students perform compared to a standard or to other students in the course or field.


Without an established process (“story”) for formative evaluation, summative evaluation (the “snapshot”) is meaningless:

Analogue: We don’t give students a final exam on day one of the semester and expect them to excel.


Without summative evaluation, formative evaluation risks becoming obsolete and pointless.

If we don’t know how we’re doing with respect to certain standards or to our colleagues, how do we know we’re improving or doing a good job?

External reference points are essential to corroborate one’s own self-assessment.


Guiding Principles of Formative Assessment

(designed for improvement)


Non-public (unless Observee decides differently)


Descriptive-analytical (not judgmental/evaluative)



best practice for formative assessment of teaching the buddy system
“Best Practice” for Formative Assessment of Teaching:The Buddy System

Who is a candidate for your “buddy”?

  • Someone at your approximate rank.
  • Someone who is not responsible for your evaluation.
  • Someone from another department, if yours is too small (or poisonous).
  • Someone you like and trust, and can be honest with you.
  • Someone who does not intimidate you.
  • Someone who is positively inclined toward the department, the university, and the students.
best practice for formative assessment of teaching the buddy system1
“Best Practice” for Formative Assessment of TeachingThe Buddy System

Invite a trusted colleague to exchange these services:

  • Review syllabi
  • Brainstorm lessons, assignments, activities
  • Inspect tests and quizzes before administering them
  • Visit your classroom
  • Share materials and successful techniques
  • Watch a videotape of your class with you
  • Help you to interpret the results of your student surveys
  • Run a focus group in your class

Guiding Principles of Summative Assessment

(for making judgments, personnel decisions)

  • Regular but not frequent
  • Public
  • Multifaceted (more than one indicator used)
  • Objective (more than one perspective present)
  • Used for making judgments
  • Formal, procedural
take control of the summative process
Take Control of the Summative Process
  • Request an observation
    • Opportunity to proactively choose a helpful colleague, a mentor
    • Chair must observe once prior to T&P application
  • Schedule a time to discuss your goals and a specific observation day
    • Helps your colleague/mentor focus on the important aspects of your teaching
    • Avoids the surprise visit
    • Opportunity to suggest instrument that can guide the observation
take control of the summative process1
Take Control of the Summative Process
  • Try to schedule a follow-up discussion soon, but not immediately after class
    • Opportunity to clarify the important details, get feedback
  • Remind observer about writing the letter/report before memory fades
  • Develop a private “schedule” of several formative and summative observations
    • Opportunity to develop the materials for a “story”
caution 1 if you use a scale define what each level means
CAUTION 1If you use a scale, define what each level means
  • Unsatisfactory
  • Below Average
  • Average
  • Above Average
  • Excellent
  • Beginning
  • Developing
  • Accomplished
  • Skilled
caution 2 do not give peer observations undue weight in summative evaluations
CAUTION 2Do not give peer observations undue weight in summative evaluations
  • Limited amount of time or number of observations
    • Consider a planned sequence of observation with specific goals
  • Differing views of teaching among peers
  • It is supplementary to other information sources about teaching
  • Peers may not observe systematically if not trained and practiced
    • Peers often have limited experience observing teaching
    • Historically faculty are not trained to observe teaching
    • Tools have limits
  • Peer observations can be tainted by reputation of instructor
  • Colleagues tend to be generous in ratings (we’re all above average)
  • Low correlation of ratings between different colleagues
    • Use a validated tool consistently over time and get trained on it.

Read the Peer Observation Handbook for more in-depth information (Provost’s Office website):

Use CETaL resources for formative purposes:

  • Video-taping
  • Observations with consultation
  • Customizing course evaluations