What is peer review?
Peer review is often identified with peer observations. But the review encompasses more than just a classroom visit. Rather, it is a more holistic review of instructional practice which takes into account the goals and values of the instructor under review as well as teaching artifacts, such as a syllabus, student work, and course artifacts in the learning management system (Canvas). The ultimate goal of a peer review is to get a broad view of an instructor in an attempt to help them become the teacher they want to be (rather than the type of instructor the reviewer is).
Why peer review?
What is good for research is good for teaching
Peer review of research helps us remain vital parts of the academic communities we inhabit. So too does peer review of teaching help us stay up-to-date on best practices in teaching.
Encourages teaching to be a community endeavor
Peer review allows us to open our teaching to colleagues who can nurture our improvement. Also, the instructor under review will spark ideas in the reviewer as much as the other way around.
Allows for greater experimentation and less reliance on student evaluations
Student evaluations can be useful, but when used as the lone measure of teaching effectiveness they can lead to less creative teaching as instructors become worried about potential negative impacts of trying out new ideas or teaching methods. (Pat Hutchings, (1996). Building a New Culture of Teaching & Learning. About Campus, 1(5), 4–8. https://doi.org/10.1002/abc.6190010502
There are two intertwined goals for the pre-observation meeting: to establish a collegial rapport between the observer and the instructor and to ensure both people have a clear idea of what to expect during the classroom observation.
Questions to consider together
- What is the content and structure of the class you will be teaching?
- Describe the students in this class. Is there anything the observer should know about them?
- What have students been asked to do in preparation for this class?
- What is the goal of the lesson? What should students learn or be able to do as a result of instruction?
- How will the instructor achieve these goals?
- What teaching methods/teaching aids will the instructor use?
- What did the instructor teach in previous lessons? How does this lesson fit into the course as a whole?
- Will this class be a typical example of instruction? If not, how will it differ?
- What should the reviewer focus on during the observation?
- Is there anything else the reviewer should be aware of prior to the observation?
- Where is the class; when should the reviewer arrive; where should the reviewer sit?
The purpose of this portion is to gain the student perspective on the lesson. Reviewing course materials will help the observer understand the materials that the students will have to make sense of the lesson under observation and can help the observer determine the degree to which students were prepared for the lesson and why the lesson succeeded or where the instructor could have prepared the learners for instruction.
What to do
The observer should gain access to the Canvas/D2L site for the course; the syllabus; and any other materials the instructor used to frame the lesson for the students (emails, announcements, etc). If the observer is familiar with the content are, they may also wish to have access to the readings that students have done in preparation for the lesson.
Reviewing the materials
The reviewer should consider:
- What would a student think the goal of the lesson is?
- How would a student fit this lesson together with the class as a whole?
- How should the students have prepared themselves for instruction?
- Were there formative knowledge checks or ways to practice the lesson material ahead of time?
- What types of academic support did the students have at their disposal (access to tutoring, writing center, etc.)
- How did the instructor frame the lesson material and put it into context for students (in Canvas site, syllabus, or other communications)?
The of the classroom observation is to gather evidence on the degree to which the instructor met the goals that they set for themselves. The goal is not for the observer to project their teaching style on the instructor, but rather to provide a mirror for the instructor that reflects the how well the instructor is the type of teacher they want to be.
There are multiple kinds of forms below. Please select the one that is the most germane to the type of class and will best help the observer take the notes they need.
- This Narrative Log (PDF) is great for keeping a running narrative for the events of the class. Asks for an observation every couple of minutes.
- This Criterion-Based Checklist (PDF) provides tick boxes that the observer can use to tally up the events in the lesson.
- This Open-Ended form (PDF) asks a series of open-ended questions based on the pre-observation meeting.
- This form for Non-Lecture-Based Classes (PDF) is a generic observation form for a discussion-based class.
- This form is appropriate for Lecture-Based Lessons (PDF)
- The Online Course form (PDF) is appropriate for evaluating lessons in online courses (assumes asynchronous lesson). Use one of the other forms above for a synchronous session of an online course.
The aim of the final session is for the observer and the instructor to discuss how the lesson went and for the observer to provide the instructor with formative feedback on the degree to which the instructor met the goals they set for the lesson.
Here is a guide (PDF) on some open-ended questions that can guide the post-review conversation.