Why is peer observation so beneficial?

The purposes of peer observation include:
• providing us with opportunities, both through observing and being observed in teaching sessions, to reflect on and review our teaching skills with the assistance of our colleagues
• identifying good practice, and needs which we can address, to ensure our ongoing personal and professional development
• helping us to continue to learn from each other, towards developing shared understandings of best practices in assessment, learning and teaching
• giving us continuing opportunities to observe students as they learn in colleagues’ teaching sessions, and reflect on how we can enhance their learning in our own sessions
• allowing us to gain from mutually beneficial learning experiences through the processes of observing colleagues and being observed ourselves
• helping us to learn new tricks from one another (old colleagues learn much from new staff and they in turn can teach new colleagues old tricks!)
• identifying generic development needs, to feed into ongoing and future staff development activities.

Adapted from: Race, P. et al. (2009) Using peer observation to enhance teaching.
Leeds Met Press. ISBN 978-0-9560099-7-5 also available here


We were fortunate to have Dr. R. Warhurst come and present his research on the broader topic of learning from observation. It is well worth watching  Video

The recording includes links to a book, and a YouTube video. For convenience:

Learning by doing and not teaching 🙂 – YouTube <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0O6VAbnDt8>

Black, K., Warhurst, R. and Corlett, S. (2018) Identity as a Foundation for HR Development. Routledge <https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315671482>

Engaging in peer observation is also benefical for obtaining Fellowship of The High Education Academy (HEA)

How confidential is it?

Essentially, it’s confidential between you and your observer. The  scheme for peer review is not connected with the formal process of a Staff Development Review (SDR). That said, you may well wish to use feedback from your observer as evidence of your good practice in your SDR the choice remains yours and as noted above as part of a HEA Fellowship or promotion application.

How to organise peer observation

1  Pre-observation meeting

A pre-observation meeting enables the observed member of staff to identify the aims and context of the session. In addition; this meeting cam be used to agree the specific aspects of the session the observer will focus on – and whether they will also comment on other aspects not specified in advance.

The main purpose of teaching is that the students attain the intended learning outcomes (LOs), it is  recommended that it concentrates on the extent to which the students achieve the various outcomes

During the pre-observation meeting also agree:

  • the best way to introduce the observer and explain their presence
  • where they will position themselves (at the back, to the side or among the students)
  • whether or not they will interact with the students at any point (we recommend that normally they don’t take an active part in the session).

2  The Observation

Normally, during the observation, you should run the event as any other, and it is recommended that the observer does not take an active part. This ensures the observer is able to give close attention to the way you and the students are behaving, making brief notes using the template.

3  The post-observation discussion

This is a vital part of the peer observation because, as explained earlier, the purpose of the process is to enable both of you (observer and observed) to gain insights from a discussion of your shared experience.

Begin by discussing the specific aspects you selected as the focus of the observation, using the observer’s notes to start the conversation.

  • identify how the effective aspects of the observed session could be incorporated into future teaching
  • consider how any constraints on learning could be avoided or overcome.
  • summarise what you have learned from this shared experience
  • consider whether there are things you need to learn and, if so, how you could

 Peer observation template.

Adapted from CLT LT725 Handbook 2018-19