Classroom observations of teaching are probably the most familiar form
of peer review. Although this activity can be very valuable when completed
with all recommended components by a prepared individual, it can also
be very unreliable when completed by an unprepared individual with a single
brief visit. Listed below are some overall guidelines provided by Nancy
Chism in "Peer Review of Teaching: A Resource Book." (Chism,
N. (1999). Peer Review of Teaching. A Sourcebook. Boston, MA: Anker).
General Guidelines for Class Observations
- Peer Reviewers need advance preparation to increase the reliability
of results. It cannot be assumed that peer reviewers are knowledgeable
in classroom observer procedures.
- Classroom observations should be conducted at least three times
to establish reliability for summative evaluation purposes.
A single classroom observation by one rater is not a reliable
indicator of teaching quality. Lewis (1988) recommends recommends
that two reviewers must observe at least twice during the offering
of a course.
- Pre-observation information is necessary to provide contextual
information about the course, instructor, and the students.
- During the classroom observation, a variety of approaches can
be used to focus the observation. These include analytical approaches
that use checklists or rating forms to videotaping, or more specialized
systems such as teacher behavior coding and mapping techniques.
- The observer should be as unobtrusive as possible.
- For the instructor and class to relax into typical patterns
of behavior, observing over a substantial amount of time is necessary.
- Following the observation, the observer should complete the
notes, forms, or other reports while the information is fresh.
- The peer and the instructor should debrief the class session,
with each providing reflections. The observer should provide constructive
feedback with the goals of helping the instructor if the observation
was for formative purposes.
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