Why use peer observation of teaching?
Over the past few years, many Schools in Queen's have put in place peer observation systems as a way of supporting staff in developing their teaching. There is a great deal written in the literature on teaching and learning in higher education which emphasizes the benefits and pitfalls in using peer observation of teaching.
Some of the reasons for setting up peer observation include:
- to share expertise and good practice among colleagues
- to provide individual and confidential feedback on teaching and learning
- to support staff in improving/enhancing their teaching and their students' learning
- to provide one aspect of a quality assurance system, particularly in the Queen's context of University Subject Review
General guidelines for peer observation
- Peer observation as a collegial system agreed by consensus seems to work far better than one imposed by line management. If staff do not feel an "ownership" of the process, they often do not wish to engage with it, and the peer observation process breaks down, or is carried out in a tokenistic manner.
- Peer observation works well if it is set up with a goal to develop and share good practice, rather than the basis that there is bad practice that needs to be eliminated (the so-called "deficit model" approach).
- It is usual for Schools to put in place training and prior discussion for observers and observed so that issues can be thoroughly aired and that any misconceptions can be cleared up.
- Schools usually make a decision as to how often to do peer observation. The process needs to be on-going, not a "once off" event, and typically occurs once per academic year. Some Schools have it once per semester and others once every two years.
- Peer observation is a negotiated not an unannounced event. Observer and observed typically set up a mutually convenient time to carry out the process.
- While peer observation is often conducted in lectures, it can be used very productively for other modes of teaching and learning, e.g. small groups or laboratories
Help and Advice
Contact Centre for Educational Development (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.