Peer Observation

We’ve considered the following idea in my department, but it hasn’t gotten much traction. However, after looking at accreditation requirements & a recent Twitter conversation, I hope that we’ll try it. 

Effective teaching is one of the things my university values above all else. Well, at least we claim to and I think many of us in the university do. However, the monitoring of the extent our teaching is effective is almost non-existent. We are expected to have some peer evaluations for our P&T portfolios, but even that is not systematized (but we’re working on it). I know other departments have chair evaluations once a semester or year, but as chair of a very large (for our school) department, that’s more work than I think I can do. Furthermore, as chair of a department of Teaching & Learning, I know that there is expertise in our faculty that I don’t have. 

Therefore, I am hoping to institute a peer evaluation observation system this year. This system will create peer observation pairings and provide a possible template for writing about the observation. I am going to suggest the following: 

  • That we each are observed by & observe 3 of our colleagues this year,
  • That we are observed by a mix of junior & senior faculty peers,
  • That observations are of at least 20 minutes of teaching,
  • Write ups include at least one thing the observer would like the observed to consider, and 
  • Write ups include at least one thing the observer observed that they will consider using in their teaching. 

I believe these write ups will make excellent portfolio artifacts. I hope even more that they will become conversation starters. 

What would you add to this system? What would you hate about this system? What am I not thinking about? 

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5 Responses to Peer Observation

  1. JMc says:

    I’ve always thought that if we were really serious about this, we’d have video cameras in all classrooms and it would just be common practice to video tape all of our classes (much like, I’m guessing, professional athletes/artists tape all of their games, performances so they can later review them).

    then the teachers themselves can review the tapes. Maybe cohorts could watch tapes together, etc.

    This doesn’t really solve any problems because the question is ultimately one of time but at least this way the coordination of schedules needn’t get in the way

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  2. jerridkruse says:

    I completely agree and even have my preservice teachers video themselves and watch it. I also try to videotape myself somewhat consistently, but could definitely do better. Your comment highlights the problem of schedule coordination and using video as an option can definitely alleviate that problem. And video can provide a more accurate account of what actually transpired in the classroom instead of just recollection.

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  3. Hugh Clench says:

    Peer observation is certainly going to be helpful for everybody, but what about having a mechanism for student feedback as well. I’m not sure what your teaching context is – but if it’s higher education then you should have something in place for this.

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    • jerridkruse says:

      Yes, we definitely have an official mechanism in place for student evaluation. I often collected student input from my students as a k-12 teacher. (so much that one student assumed my admin was making me give the evals and wrote, “Mr. Kruse is a good teacher, stop checking up on him”). Unfortunately, we often use student eval data almost exclusively despite some evidence of a negative correlation between positive student evals and useful learning.

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  4. marcovitz says:

    It might help to make a distinction between formative evaluation and summative evaluation.

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