Peer review of teaching offers a powerful opportunity for colleagues to observe one another’s teaching strategies and, where appropriate, to discuss ways to better align those practices with disciplinary and departmental goals. Unlike student or outside evaluation, peer review involves co-practitioners exploring their shared trade. As such, Chism (2007) identifies several virtues to be practiced as peers explore strategies that may diverge from one another: patience, principle, and generosity of spirit.
A crucial function in peer review of teaching is discussion and reflection among observers and observed (Thomas, et. al, 2014). Observers may notice particular classroom dynamics and instructional behaviors of which an instructor may be unaware; in turn, the observer may become aware of their own teaching practices by observing others. Opportunities to discuss these findings and explore methods of integration can improve teaching for all parties while strengthening a department’s general approach. In this spirit, peers can also review and provide feedback on course materials, practicing care toward both teaching efforts and design.
- Formative feedback given to a peer on their teaching during the semester, so that they can improve their teaching during term. This type of evaluation is more useful in that the instructor has the capacity to change their practices before the semester ends.
- Modified classroom observations and protocols can be adopted for observation, and/or utilized by instructors in self-reflection to further enrich discussion following peer review. These self-assessments vary in scope, length of time, and kinds of data assessed.
- Teaching Squares provide a structured way for instructors to host interdisciplinary observations and conversations about their teaching. Four instructors observe one another’s teaching and meet to discuss and provide feedback.
- Feedback given as a summative evaluation of teaching efforts. This may serve a particular purpose such as a departmental teaching evaluation, or it could be self-requested to provide a full picture of an instructor’s pedagogy.
- Discuss Beforehand - Peers can have a conversation to explore particular instructional behaviors for which feedback is most desired. The observer focuses on specific items during observation, which in turn leads to focused conversation about particular teaching skills or incidents. This conversation also ensures that peer review feel less like a total evaluation, and more like strategic feedback.
- Agree on Protocol - Peers can discuss and determine an agreed-upon protocol or set of standards for observing in class, one which the observer feels comfortable using and under which the instructor feels comfortable teaching.
- Provide Course Materials - So that the observer has a full picture of class objectives, the instructor can provide the syllabus, a lesson outline, any readings, and notes about previous classroom conversations. The instructor can ask for feedback on these materials in addition to classroom instruction.
- Schedule a Debriefing - In addition to scheduling a specific observation day, peers can schedule a time in the office, over coffee, or over lunch to discuss the observation. Ideally, this is scheduled as soon after the observation as possible (e.g. immediately after or next day when possible).
- Consider Discipline/Department - Whether bringing together instructors in the same discipline or in different disciplines, peer review provides opportunity to consider the standards and habits of departmental teaching practice. During or after the debrief, and only with permission, peers might consider sharing appropriate elements of their discussion with colleagues to paint a larger picture of departmental teaching approaches.
The downloads section (bottom) features a printable handout version of this web page.
Chism, N. (2007). Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (2nd edition). Bolton, MA; Anker Publishing.
Thomas, S., Chie, QT., Abraham, M, Raj, S., & Beh, LS. (2014). A qualitative review of literature on peer review of teaching in higher education: An application of the SWOT framework. Review of Educational Research 84: 112-159.