Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Definition, aims and benefits

Defining peer observation and outlining its aims and benefits.

Peer observation of teaching

This is a guide to be used in situations where peer observation of teaching is taking place. It is based on academic research and feedback from existing peer observation schemes.

What is peer observation of teaching?

Peer observation of teaching is a formative process where two peers work together and observe each other’s teaching. The observer offers feedback to the colleague who is doing the teaching.

Having my teaching observed gave me a great sense of confidence in what I was doing in the classroom

What are the aims of peer observation of teaching?

  • To enhance teaching through critical reflection on it
  • To enhance the quality of teaching and student learning
  • To bring benefits to the person doing the observation as well as to the person doing the teaching

What kinds of teaching can you have observed?

Any kind of teaching can be observed. The crucial thing is that the teacher is facilitating some kind of learning to take place. This teaching could be a lecture, or a tutorial or seminar. It could also be a lab class, or a field trip. Or it could be a one-to-one session with a student, for example in a PhD supervision. And the teaching can take place in any medium. You might want the observation to focus on an online session – how to moderate a discussion board for example, or how you facilitate a session using Collaborate.

What’s important about the process is that it’s based on a situation where teaching is taking place. This makes the scope of peer observation very wide. You could choose to have your teaching observed in a research seminar or even in a public engagement event.

What are the benefits of a peer observation scheme?

There are many benefits to having your teaching observed. We almost always think of these as being mainly for the person doing the teaching but research shows that both parties benefit. Indeed, in many situation the greatest benefits actually flow to the person who is observing. Some of these benefits include:

  • Discussion of your teaching
  • Sharing of good practice
  • Positive valuing of teaching
  • Sharing critical reflections
  • Challenging assumptions about teaching
  •  Learning about a range of different approaches to learning and teaching

We can all learn a great deal by watching how other people design and deliver their teaching. Even if you are a teacher with a lot of experience you can still learn from observing your peers.

How will peer observation of teaching work?

This is a peer-based scheme which is based on the assumption that everyone involved in teaching has knowledge and expertise to share.

There are three stages involved in the observation process, and there is a form to help with each of these:

1. Before the observation

2. During the observation

3. After the observation

These forms are designed to help you with the observation process, but you could choose to proceed without using them.