Peer observations, whether for formative or evaluative purposes, should involve at least three parts:
- a conversation prior to the visit (in which the instructor and observer discuss plans for the content, structure, and methods of the class to be observed, the place of the class in context of the whole semester, etc.);
- the observation (during which the observer should be looking for particular features as well as general impressions; the use of a standard form will help to ensure consistency and thoroughness); and
- a post-observation conversation (during which the instructor and observer should work together to discuss strengths, weaknesses, and possible changes to make in future classes).
The observer’s report should be informed by all three of these steps and could also include a form used to make comments during an observation.
A sample form for use during observations can be modified to the particular needs of a department or an individual course. When such forms are used, there is a risk of encouraging teaching to the form; departments should therefore use forms that are simple and focused only on features that all agree are essential in all good teaching.
(Furthermore, to encourage more conversations about teaching, the college encourages all faculty to visit one another’s classes. For example, when an instructor undergoing review is going to be visited by a colleague, it might be helpful to do reciprocal observations; watching a colleague who is going to watch you, creates opportunities for mutually instructive conversations—and may even lead to more proposals for team teaching.)