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Peer Observation Program

The Office of Learning and Teaching regularly provides individual faculty members feedback on their teaching through a direct observation program, and invites other faculty members to do the same. While all faculty get regular input from students through end-of-course surveys and meetings, the educational literature is clear that student feedback alone is not sufficient in guiding one’s growth as a teacher.

Some of our peer observations are conducted randomly as part of quality review, some at the request of course directors, and some at the request of faculty members themselves. The program has one goal – to positively support faculty in becoming the best teacher possible. A formal observation starts with a meeting before the session, then of course goes on to the observation itself, followed by the feedback session. Here you’ll find links to the forms that document the process.

If you’re new to the process of using feedback from peers toward developing expertise in education, take a look at this groundbreaking article by Dr. Atul Gawande where he describes the power of peer and expert feedback in his own development as a surgeon, as well as that of educators, and elite athletes and artists.

“I would summarize by saying the feedback was invaluable and tremendously constructive. I am extremely appreciative of the [observer’s] time and energy.”

Observation Protocol

Requesting an Observation: Simply contact the Assistant Dean for Learning and Teaching or the Assistant Director of Faculty Development, letting them know that you would like to be observed!

Pre-Observation Exchange: In this conversation, you, the faculty member are asked what if any specific areas you would like the observation to focus on. Maybe you have a session you’ve just designed, and you’re particularly uncertain about one part or another. Or perhaps you have one or two areas you’re just not sure about your skills in, and you’d like input from a peer. Maybe students have repeatedly commented on something your do well or not so well, and you’d like more information.

Observation: The observer will sit to the side of the lecture hall, or if it’s a small group session, on the periphery of the room. He or she will typically take lots of notes to capture as much of what the faculty member is doing well, and may need help with, as possible. The observer will not contribute at all to the session.

Post-Observation Feedback: In this conversation between the faculty member and the observer, the you will first be asked for your assessment of the session. What went well for you and why? What could have gone better, and why. The observer will then build on this. Our goal is to provide you insights from from the session on what you should continue to do, and new directions to take your teaching. Sometimes, the you and the observer will agree that a follow-up observation could be helpful, and work toward scheduling one.

The Written Report: Using one of the tools linked below, the observer writes up the observation, reflections, and discussion that took place and sends it to you, the faculty member. This report is maintained in a database by the Office of Learning and Teaching. Only the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, and the Learning and Teaching faculty and staff have access. You can add the entire report, or portions you select to your teaching portfolio or other promotions documents.

Observation Tools:

Examples of a Written Report of a Faculty Observation: