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Guide to peer review of teaching

Peer review of teaching entails an expert or, ideally, a colleague observing a teaching situation, taking notes, and giving feedback, preferably both verbally and in writing.

The aim of the review is formative, that is, to help the teacher develop their teaching. When colleagues observe each other, there are further benefits: both teacher and observer learn more about teaching for learning in their discipline, and benefit from sharing ideas and supporting each other. Peer observation of teaching also provides teachers with evidence about their teaching that can be used for continuation and promotion processes.

Important points about peer review

Peer review should be 

  • voluntary
  • positive and constructive
  • developmental, that is, formative (not summative)
  • respectful of confidentiality
  • objective and not subjective
  • based on the assumption that both teacher and observer will learn more about teaching from the observation. 

The teacher should choose an observer carefully: empathy and attention to detail are essential in an observer; seniority, not so much. A sense of mutual trust is vital. The teacher shouldn’t choose to be observed in their most polished class; a tougher class will generate more useful feedback. 

Both observer and teacher should read through (1) this guide and skim two forms: (2) the pre-observation form and (3) the observation form. These forms can be adapted as necessary.  

Additional readings are provided below.

The process 

  1. Pre-observation consultation
    The observer and teacher meet to clarify and agree on objectives.
  2. Observation
    The observer observes the class and makes detailed notes of what they observe.
  3. Post-observation debrief
    The observer and teacher discuss the observed teaching in light of the agreed objectives for the observation and what actually happened in the class preferably immediately after the class.
  4. Post-observation reflection
    The teacher writes a reflection on the class, taking into account the post-observation debrief. The observer forwards the notes that they took during the class to the teacher.
  5. Final report
    The observer writes a report to summarise the process and outcomes of the observation. (Two examples are provided below—alternatively the observation form can be completed more formally as a report.) This report can be used for continuation and promotion.
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