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About the peer observation of teaching

Peer observation of teaching fits into the broad area of evaluation:

  Teaching Activity
Focus Curriculum design, assessment Interface with students
Quality enhacement Collaborative course enhancement (e.g. Griffith University's PACES)

Peer Observation of Teaching

Quality recognition

External Course Review
(e.g. HEA fellowship)

Peer Review of Teaching

CTQA data (including SECaTs)

Peer Observation at UQ

UQ has a long engagement with the peer observation of teaching. It has, and continues to be, an integral part of teachers professional development. From 2016 The University of Queensland is seeking to significantly increase these activities through more institutional level support and recognition.

Throughout 2015 ITaLI engaged in consultation and collaborated with schools from across UQ to pilot Peer Observation of Teaching activities. The processes and information on this site are the result of the research, consultation and testing during this period.

Peer Review of Teaching

"Peer Review of Teaching" is a more formal process where an expert teacher from our College of Peer Observers observes a teaching activity and provides a statement of the quality of teaching and engages in a discussion with the teacher about ways to enhance teaching.

Peer Observation elsewhere

Peer observation is a central aspect of professional development at many insitutitons and has been the focus of a range of OLTprojects:

Peer Assisted Teaching Scheme (PATS)

PATS offers a range of structured programs using peer assistance to enhance teaching and learning.

Oxford Brookes Peer Enhancement of Teaching, Learning and Assessment

PETAL offers a set of processes that support those involved in teaching and supporting learning at the University to build on what we already do to review and improve our teaching practices.

Missouri University of Science and Technology: Teaching Partners Program

Teaching Partners is a confidential professional development service for instructors who want to enhance their teaching through peer observation and feedback. Trained faculty mentors meet with interested instructors in a collegial atmosphere where there is mutual sharing that benefits both parties.

ALTC project: Peer Review of Teaching (PRT) website

The Peer Review of Teaching (PRT) website is part of a two year project funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) / Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT).

David Gosling's Peer review of teaching

Professor Gosling has led significant research into the processes about the peer observation of teaching and provides a short overview of his research and links to his detailed works.

Phil Race's guide to the Peer Observation of Teaching

Professor Race's guides to teaching and learning in higher education include detailed guides for peer observation.

HEA: Example of Peer Observation proformas

The UK's Higher Education Academy provides a resource library which includes this 2011 collection of proformas to support peer observation.

Peer observation literature

Peer observation has been demonstrated to be an effective tool for the enhancement of teaching, leading to improvements in student outcomes and experience (Bell, 2001; Carbone, 2011; Nash & Barnard, 2013). While there have been isolated cases and school-based initiatives utilising peer observation to enhance teaching, most universities in Australia, including Go8 institutions, have a more formal and supported approach to peer observation of teaching. This pattern is matched in many of the world’s most prestigious universities (including UC Berkley, CALTECH, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, University of Toronto). Peer observation can also be embedded into personal, school, faculty and institutional initiatives that enhance learning and teaching.

Peer observation can provide valuable evidence for the promotion and appraisal processes at universities, and teaching award applications within and beyond institutions (Harris, Farrell, Bell, Devlin & James, 2008; Higher Education Academy, 2013).

Peer observation activities need to be embedded in institutional systems to become sustainable (Sachs & Parsell, 2014) and be valued at the individual, school and faculty levels. Evidence of the effectiveness of peer observation must be made available; however, sharing of observation data beyond participants needs to be at the discretion of the observed (Crisp et al., 2009).

Positioning the observed teacher in control of the process of observation creates a climate of quality enhancement that, in turn, facilitates improvements in teaching practice (Nash & Barnard 2013; Harris et al., 2008; McMahon, Barrett & O’Neil, 2007). Teacher ownership enables a focus on activities that may be changed and a safe environment to explore substantial issues (Hitchens, 2014). External support is required to initiate and sustain the ongoing practice of peer observations including the provision of frameworks, support and system level analysis (Harris et al., 2008). Peer observation can be more effective at the individual and local levels if embedded in further enhancement projects such as introductory programs, mentoring schemes and action learning projects (Buskit, Ismail & Groccia, 2014; Carbone, 2011; Hanrahan, Ryan & Duncan, 2001; Hendry & Oliver, 2012; Kemmis & McTaggart, 2000). Central teaching and learning units have played valuable roles supporting and integrating peer observation into university processes and activities (Blackmore, 2005; Gosling, 2014; Harris et al, 2008; Healey, Ambler, Irhammar, Kilfoil & Lyons, 2014).

Flexibility in peer observation supports diversity and integration with other enhancement activities (Gosling, 2014). Research into teacher development projects indicates these activities should be relevant, interconnected, extend over a substantial period of time and be socially embedded (Gibbs, 2013; Healey, 2000; Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009; Webster Wright, 2010). Flexibility in central peer observation processes enable these processes to be embedded as part of central and local initiatives ranging from induction to mentoring and scholarly research into teaching. The diversity of UQ’s teachers and contexts within which they teach requires that peer observation of teaching practices have suitable flexibility to enhance teaching across these contexts. Developing a suitable, flexible system that is supported by all the key stakeholders will require broad and open consultation to meet the diversity of teachers and development opportunities at UQ.

There is no uniformly accepted model of peer observation (Hitchens, 2014), however, most models of peer observation move through phases of reflection, peer briefing, observation and debriefing, and finally planning and implementing changes to teaching. Within this model there is potential for building a sustainable core model, enabling diversity within the selection of observers (across discipline, experience and role), observed activity, focus of observation, forms of documentation, time and support for each activity (Carbone, 2011; Gosling, 2002; McKenzie, Pelliccione & Parker, 2008). Implementing a broadly supported model of peer observation at UQ will require exploring suitable dimensions for each of these possibilities recognising the diversity and flexibility required across the institution to optimise the enhancement of teaching practices.

Bell, M. (2001). Supported reflective practice: A programme of peer observation and feedback for academic development. International Journal for Academic Development, 6(1), 21-28.

Blackmore, J.A. (2005). A critical evaluation of peer review via teaching observation within higher education. International Journal of Educational Management, 19(3), 218 – 232. Retrieved from http://dx.Doi.Org/10.1108/09513540510591002 

Buskit, W., Ismail, E.A. & Groccia, J.E. (2013). A practical model for conducting helpful peer review of teaching. In Peer review of learning and teaching in higher education (pp.33-52). doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7639-5_3

Carbone, A. (2011). Peer Assisted Teaching Scheme (Final Report) NSW: Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Retrieved from http://vera195.its.monash.edu.au/pluginfile.php/79/mod_page/content/28/ALTC%20Final%20Report%202011.pdf

Crisp, G., Sadler, R., Krause, K., Buckridge, M., Wills, S., Brown, C., McLean, J., Dalton, H., Le Lievre, K., & Brougham, B. (2009). Peer review of teaching for promotion purposes: A project to develop and implement a pilot program of external peer review of teaching in four Australian universities. Sydney: ALTC. Retrieved from http://www.olt.gov.au/resources/1600?text=peer+review

Gibbs, G. (2013). Reflections on the changing nature of educational development. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(1), 4-14. doi: 10.1080/1360144X.2013.751691

Gosling, D. (2002). Models of peer observation of teaching. Learning and Teaching Support Network, Generic Centre. Retrieved from http://learningandteaching.vu.edu.au/teaching_practice/improve_my_teaching/evaluation_support_for_my_teaching/Resources/id200_Models_of_Peer_Observation_of_Teaching.pdf 

Gosling, D. (2014). Collaborative peer-supported review of teaching. In J. Sachs & M. Parsell (Eds.), Peer Review of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (pp. 13–31). doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7639-5

Harris, K-L., Farrell, K., Bell, M., Devlin, M., & James, R. (2008). Peer review of teaching in Australian higher education: A handbook to support institutions in developing and embedding effective policies and practices. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.cshe.unimelb.edu.au/research/teaching/docs/PeerReviewHandbook_eVersion.pdf

Hanrahan, M., Ryan, M. & Duncan, M. (2001). The professional engagement model of academic induction into on-line teaching. International Journal for Academic Development, 6(2), 130-141. doi: 10.1080/13601440110115615

Healey, M. (2000). Developing the scholarship of teaching in higher education: A discipline-based approach. Higher Education Research & Development, 19(2), 169-189. doi: 10.1080/072943600445637

Healey, M., Ambler, T., Irhammar, M., Kilfoil, W., & Lyons, J. (2014). International perspectives on peer review as quality enhancement. In J. Sachs & M. Parsell (Eds.), Peer Review of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (pp. 201–219). doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7639-5

Hendry, G.D. & Oliver, G.R. (2012). Seeing is believing: The benefits of peer observation. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(1). Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol9/iss1/7 

Higher Education Academy. (2013). Promoting teaching: making evidence count. Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/making-evidence-count-web_0.pdf

Hitchens, M. (2014). Six questions. In J. Sachs & M. Parsell (Eds.), Peer Review of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (pp. 85–102). doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7639-5

Kemmis, S. & McTaggart, R. (2000). Participatory action research. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln, Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Martin, G.A. & Double, J.M. (1998). Developing higher education teaching skills through peer observation and collaborative reflection. Innovations in Education & Training International, 35(2), 161-170. doi: 10.1080/1355800980350210

McKenzie, J., Pelliccione, L. & Parker, N. (2008). Developing peer review of teaching in blended learning environments: Frameworks and challenges. Proceedings of ascilite Melbourne 2008. Retrieved from http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/melbourne08/procs/mckenzie-j.pdf

McMahon, T., Barrett, T. & O'Neill, G. (2007). Using observation of teaching to improve quality: Finding your way through the muddle of competing conceptions, confusion of practice and mutually exclusive intentions. Teaching in Higher Education, 12(4), 499-511. doi: 10.1080/13562510701415607

Nash, R., & Barnard, A. (2013). Developing a culture of peer review of teaching through a distributive leadership approach (final report). Sydney: Office for Learning and Teaching. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/70892/1/LE11_1980_Nash_Report_2014.pdf

Sachs, J. & Parsell, M. (Eds.). (2013). Peer review of learning and teaching in higher education. Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-7639-5_1

Roxå, T., & Mårtensson, K. (2009). Significant conversations and significant networks – exploring the backstage of the teaching arena. Studies in Higher Education, 34(5), 547-559. doi: 10.1080/03075070802597200

Webster-Wright, A. (2010). Authentic professional learning: Making a difference through learning at work. Netherlands: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-90-481-3947-7