You may consider requesting feedback from peers and/or mentors, including more experienced course directors. This is an excellent way for you to receive a variety of different points of view about your teaching and potentially obtain future references for Tenure and Promotion, etc. Peer evaluation has been used in academia for many years when it comes to hiring and tenure decisions, grant applications etc. Now, many institutions use peer observation as a means of evaluating and improving the teaching of educators. As a result of the observation process, it is hoped that you will gain new ideas and perspectives about teaching from your colleagues. You should provide your observer with an observation/feedback form to fill out and ask your observer to provide written feedback identifying what you did well and what can be improved. For sample forms, see our Samples.
PRIOR TO THE OBSERVATION
Have a short meeting to discuss any points of emphasis that you would like examined. (Is there a specific aspect of your teaching that you want examined?) The observer should be clear on your goals and should review any relevant material ahead of time (e.g. class outline, homework/assignment that students were asked to do).
DURING THE OBSERVATION
As the observer, show up on time for the session. The TA/instructor should teach as normal – don’t change because you are being observed! You should introduce the observer to the class and explain the purpose of his or her visit. The observer should comment on all of the categories on the form (if applicable). Any additional observations can be put in the extra space provided or on a separate piece of paper.
AFTER THE OBSERVATION
The observer should review the notes on the form and make any additions that are necessary. If the form is “messy,” rewrite on another form. The peer observer and TA should meet directly after the class observation to discuss the results. Keep a copy of the observation form for your teaching dossier!
The following guidelines, from the ISW Handbook for Participants (2006), are recommended when receiving verbal feedback:
- Make eye contact with the person giving you feedback.
- Accept all feedback initially.
- Separate your feelings from the content.
- Avoid attempting to re-teach the lesson in response to the feedback.
- Paraphrase what you hear and verify this is what your observer meant.
- Ask for clarification or specific examples if the feedback is unclear.
- Give honest, experiential responses.
- Focus on the positive.
- Determine the importance of the feedback to you.
You may request that your observer give you constructive feedback that will help you identify the areas in which you excel and the areas in which there is room for improvement. You may want to refer them to the following list of guidelines for giving constructive feedback from the ISW Handbook for Participants (2006):
- Specific, rather than general.
- Descriptive, as opposed to evaluative, and avoids using judgmental terms, such as “good” or “bad”. Consider ranking the behavior as more or less instead.
- Behavioural, rather than inferential. Refers to what the person does, rather than to personal characteristics and avoids suggesting reasons for their actions.
- Balanced. Focus first on the positive and then give suggestions for development.
- Manageable amounts of information are provided, without overloading.
- Changeable, in that it is directed toward behavior that the teacher can change.
- Solicited, rather than imposed. Decide on the value the feedback will have for the person receiving it, not on the degree of “release” it gives you to express it.
- Feedback is often most useful when the receiver identifies particular areas for the observer to focus on or specific questions to answer.
- Timely. Be sure to make time directly after the observation to meet with the teacher you are observing to report back on your observations and feedback.
- Checked for understanding to ensure clear communication.
- None of my peers are available to observe me.
- Enroll in the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) (see more information below)
- Consider asking a colleague that attends the same research seminar as you to observe your teaching during a research seminar presentation you give.
- There is nobody in my discipline that is interested in taking the ISW with me.
- Keep in mind that you are requesting feedback on your teaching, not on the content that you are teaching to your students. Ask your observer to pay attention to the way you teach, not what you are teaching. It may be beneficial to have someone outside of your discipline provide feedback on your teaching that has a unique perspective.
- I do not agree with the observations and feedback that my peer observer identified.
- Try to receive their observations and feedback with an open mind. Perhaps have someone video tape your teaching and watch yourself to see if you can see what they observed.
- My peer observer did not provide feedback on what I was hoping for or expected.
- Meet with your peer observer before the class they will observe and go over the specific aspects of your teaching you would like feedback on. Use the Class Observation Notes (provided in Teaching Observation and Reflection Notes ) or a similar form to have your peer observer complete, which includes a space for them to record the aspects of your teaching you are most interested in receiving feedback on.
- Create a Teaching Observation Form Checklist (see a sample in Teaching Observation and Reflection Notes) which identifies the particular aspects of your teaching you would like observed and receive feedback on.
At the Teaching Commons we offer a certification course that require participants to prepare and teach mini-lessons so that they will obtain feedback on their teaching from each other and so participants are supported in this process. However, you may find that simply approaching one of your peers, asking them to come to your next class to observe you teaching and provide feedback is what would work best for you.
Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW):
The ISW is a peer-based workshop in which participants will design and conduct three “mini-lessons” and receive reflective verbal, written and video feedback from the other participants who have been learners in the mini-lessons. For more information and to access a schedule of offerings and registration forms, please see the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) page.
Request that one of your peers attend your class and observe your teaching. Follow the general guidelines outlined at the beginning of this section. You may consider getting feedback on your teaching from a variety of peers, someone from your discipline and someone that is not from your discipline, for example.