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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning

 

Peer observation represents a valuable opportunity to share ideas, gain feedback, and reflect on the practice and challenges of teaching and learning. The observation process works best when it is seen as an opportunity for development and collaboration, where colleagues depart from a narrow scrutiny of 'performance' to a discussion of wider teaching and course design issues, with due consideration of the contextual influences that combine to shape effective teaching.  

There are many different ways of approaching peer observation. A basic structure is as follows:

  • observation partners agree in advance of the observation what each hopes to learn through the process and how and when a post-observation discussion will be held;
  • explain the purpose of the observation to students involved in the teaching session (in particular, that they are not being assessed);
  • conduct observation (some sample structures for notes are provided);
  • hold post-observation discussion; each participant may wish to consider two or three points to develop further and consider whether any outcomes of the observation could be shared more widely.

For those new to peer observation, it may be helpful to consider approaches to giving and receiving constructive feedback:

Giving feedback Receiving feedback
ask the person who has been observed for their own reflection on session observed first; consider your own assessment of your teaching session, in advance of receiving feedback: what worked well? what might have been done differently?
remember to comment on strengths and positive aspects of the teaching observed; remember to listen to positive comments;
avoid bland, vague comments; focus on practical ways of engaging with any difficulties or challenges
focus on practical solutions comment on techniques, processes and behaviours and avoid speculating on motivation or intent; Identify two or three points that you would like to develop in future.
address any points that you were specifically asked to comment on;  
conclude on a positive note.  

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