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Beyond the peer observation of teaching

The methods that can be used for peer observation are as varied as the peer observation participants themselves, yet each method has the same goal: to improve teaching and learning at UQ.

Reciprocal Groups

Goodwin (2014) notes that it’s not only common but also beneficial to move beyond a pairing of peer observer and peer observee in order to give and gain feedback on teaching. Reciprocal groups who meet together to prepare for observation, take turns observing each others’ classrooms and then meet again to debrief after the observation can benefit all teachers involved no matter their level of experience in the classroom.

Reciprocal groups can be formed in many ways. A group could consist of a pair of teachers who agree to observe each others’ classrooms and then discuss their observations, or a group could be made up of three or four teachers who take turns observing everyone else in the group and then meet to discuss their observations as a larger group. The teachers can be from within the same discipline or from disparate disciplines. The makeup of the group is entirely up to the participants.

Beyond teaching

Observation doesn’t have to stop at teaching. In fact, that might be a jumping off point to discuss other aspects of teaching and learning. For example, a group of teachers might meet to read through and discuss assignment guidelines, a syllabus or a unit lesson plan. A group might even take turns micro-teaching to each other, which would involve preparing a short lesson and ‘practice teaching’ it to the group. This scenario works especially well if a teacher is interested in trying out a new technique or technology.

Peer observation could and should be the beginning of the development of a community of teachers.

Local customisation

Currently, there are active peer observation programs in pharmacy, medicine and engineering. Each was developed with the school or faculty’s needs in mind.

These variations represent only the beginning of what peer observation has to offer teachers at UQ.