Peer feedback on teaching

Academic commissions

Academic commissions in each section provide a mechanism for teachers to get feedback from experienced colleagues.

While the organisation and specific functions of each academic commission are developed to reflect the specific needs of each section, in general the role of the academic commission is:

  • to ensure that the courses in the programme’s study plan do contribute to the overall learning goals for the programme.
  • to study the documents and assessments for a course, reviewing such things as the overall quality of course documents the learning goals which are assessed, the exam protocols used, the evaluation criteria used in the assessment and the procedures for grading.
  • to give feedback to teachers and to report to the Dean of Bachelors and Masters Studies.
  • to make recommendations on the section’s teaching methods and curriculum.

Voluntary peer observation

In addition to the feedback offered by the Academic Commission, some teachers like to invite a colleague to sit in on a class and to discuss their teaching approach. This has the benefit of allowing the lecturer to choose who they get feedback from and what they get feedback on.

There are a few good practices that are worth remembering when planning a peer feedback:

  • The person doing the observation should be clear that the observation is confidential – the observer should not discuss it with anyone else, as it is up to the teacher to decide with whom they would like to discuss it.
  • The lecturer and the observer should meet in advance to discuss (a) what is the goal and structure of the class to be observed, (b) what the lecturer particularly wants feedback on and (c) anything distinctive about the class or the context.
  • The observer should arrive in time, stay for the whole class and should normally not participate. For small classes they can be briefly introduced as a colleague who is sitting in on the class (in larger classes that may not be necessary).
  • The observer should take notes, focussing on factual descriptions (for example, “the class starts with abstract formulae without context and there is no lead-in explaining how this links to previous lectures” is a better description than “weak intro”).
  • The lecturer and observer should meet within a week to discuss the class. This feedback session should focus on what is good as well as areas of challenge.  The observer should avoid trying to impose their own approach on the lecturer (i.e., avoid “What I would do is…”, where possible). Remember that the lecturer has to find solutions that they will be comfortable with.

For further advice on peer observations, or for more detailed guidelines and report templates, please contact a teaching advisor from the Teaching Support Centre.