Benefits of Peer Observation

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Have you ever thought to yourself: Am I doing this right? or Am I any good at this? Is there a better more effective way to teach/present this information? What are my colleagues or others who teach this course doing? While we do not encourage comparison of yourself to others, we do encourage collaboration. We also encourage observation of your colleagues.

My undergraduate degree was in education, special education to be specific. I trained to be a teacher. I took classes on pedagogy, and I observed other teachers before practicing the art of teaching under the supervision of professionals in the field. Before being sent into the professional world, I spent several months in practicum and internship settings practicing. When I entered the field as a new professional, I still had a lot to learn, but I had a foundation.

Fast forward, I am now mentoring new instructors in higher education. Some who have a similar background as my own. Others who have never stepped foot in a classroom as the instructor. I easily stepped into a mentoring role. I have been mentoring friends and colleagues most of my professional career. I began mentoring by sharing tips and showing them some of the techniques that I used. I would offer advice and provide materials. But telling someone how to do something and showing them or teaching them are two completely different things. So my classroom became a place where instructors were welcome. I encouraged my mentees as well as others who were new to the profession to come to my class to observe.

Adjuncts are welcome to observe my classes any time they wish. They can observe my teaching style, how I handle classroom management, how I work with Instructional Assistants (IAs), how course content is presented, active learning activities that are implemented, and how I interact with my students, They can also observe how I handle unexpected setbacks such as technology failure. I also observe adjuncts’ classes after they have had the opportunity to come and observe mine. During our meeting following the observations, we can discuss both experiences. During the meeting, I try to point out strategies that were used that I am going to work to incorporate into my classes – perhaps a teaching strategy or activity that I observed. I also reference things that they observed when they came to visit my class as we discuss possible areas of improvement. For example, if I suggest more class discussion, I may suggest the use of a strategy, like a Think, Pair, Share. More than likely, they observed this strategy when they visited my class, so they know what I am talking about and how I implemented the strategy. This makes the meeting run a bit more smoothly and more effectively.

6 Benefits of Observation:
1. New ideas, techniques, and strategies
2. Classroom management
3. Use of technology
4. Explanation of material – presenting the material differently
5. Activities and active learning ideas
6. Engaging students

Call to Action: If you are a full time faculty member at your university become comfortable with people visiting your classroom to observe. Invite new faculty who you mentor to visit your classroom. If you are a new faculty member, find someone to observe. Ask a colleague if it would be possible to stop by and observe one of their classes. Explain that you are trying to learn from those who are seasoned professionals in the field.  Observation benefits the observed, the observer, and ultimately the students.

Words of Caution:
1. Gain permission to observe before stopping by. Some people may be uncomfortable having a colleague in their classroom, regardless of the reason for the visit.
2. Respect the environment. You are an observer – blend in. Do not use your cell phone or act in other distracting manners. Just simply sit and observe.

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