Selecting a Peer Observer

Inviting a colleague into your classroom to observe can provide great insights into your instructional practices and the experience of learners. When deciding who to invite to observe your teaching, consider the following:

  • Knowledge of peer observation/review – If possible, it is best to get someone who has experience observing others’ teaching. If that’s not possible, be sure to share these best practices and direct the observer to the Center for Faculty Excellence for further assistance conducting a peer observation.
  • Institutional knowledge – It is helpful to have a peer observer who is familiar with the institution, including its mission, goals, resources, students, etc.
  • Teaching experience – Since you are going into this process hoping to gain new insights into your teaching and get ideas for improving your instructional practices, it is important that the peer observer have teaching experience. If you can get an observer who has been recognized for his/her teaching, that is especially desirable.
  • Integrity & Trust – It is important to select an observer who is genuine in his/her interactions and is someone you trust to give honest, constructive, and helpful feedback.
  • Supportive & Mentoring – You want to select someone who you feel will help you develop as a teacher…someone you feel you could learn something from.
  • The definition of ‘peer’ – If the observation will be used as part of an evaluative process (e.g., Promotion & Tenure, Faculty Annual Review), it is best to select a peer who is at or above your rank.
  • Content knowledge – Depending on your goals and the purpose of the observation, consider whether it is important that the peer observer have content-specific knowledge for the class that will be observed.  Having such knowledge may be necessary/helpful for some observational goals, but unimportant for others.

Once you have invited someone to observe your teaching and they have agreed to do so, be sure to follow the best practices and begin the process with a pre-observation meeting where you confirm the focus and purpose of the classroom observation.