Having your teaching observed by a colleague can provide useful feedback, and gives a different perspective to the student feedback you will get through LSE surveys. Some departments require new teachers to have at least one class observed, usually by either a member of full time faculty or staff from the Teaching and Learning Centre. For everyone else, teaching observation is an open option, either by making your own arrangements with a colleague, or through requesting a teaching observation from the Teaching and Learning Centre. Where teaching observation is a requirement, the department and observer should let you know what will happen with the results of the observation. For any informal observations you arrange, the process should be entirely confidential. The notes below outline a suggested process which should make teaching observation productive.
Before a teaching observation it is useful for the two people involved to meet for around 20 minutes to discuss: the objectives/intended student learning for the session; the context of the session within the overall course; the extent to which the session to be observed is part of the teacher's 'standard' teaching repertoire, or something of a 'special' event; any issues the teacher being observed is particularly concerned about/interested in having feedback on.
Student briefing is recommended in all cases, but will be particularly important if observation is of small group work - where the observer may influence the whole dynamics of the session. Students mainly need reassurance that it is the teacher, rather than themselves, that is the focus of attention.
The observer should sit in an unobtrusive position. It is useful if the observer can see and record both a description of what the teacher does (verbal/non-verbal/visual, etc), plus a commentary on student response/participation. The observer may find it useful to have a list of prompts available - preferably discussed beforehand with the teacher being observed. This might include any/all of the following, or other issues as requested by the observer:
clarity of the objectives for the session, and of what the teacher expects students to gain from being there
content: relevance, accuracy, appropriateness
teaching/learning methods - how appropriate are they in terms of the objectives?
personal communication skills: enthusiasm, confidence, warmth, creativity
delivery and presentation: language, pace, audibility, effective use of support materials
student involvement: rapport, interaction, responsiveness, opportunity and encouragement for participation, use of student contributions etc
The observer may, with the agreement of the teacher, and prior briefing of students, have a brief discussion with a small group of students at the end of the session to get feedback from them. Issues worth exploring here include how the session compares to others from the same teacher, and the kinds of notes and ideas students are taking away from the session.
The observer will need a brief period following the session to review his/her notes. Soon after (as soon as possible), the observer and teacher need to meet to discuss the session. It is useful to start this discussion by asking the teacher to reflect on his/her teaching, and then build on that, rather than the observer taking the lead. In providing feedback it is important to: build on the positive; be specific; refer to behaviour which can be changed; encourage the teacher to clarify specific ideas/actions for improvement, and indicate how these can be followed up.
The benefits to be gained from observation cannot easily or even particularly usefully be "kept on file". The main development comes from colleagues meeting, observing and discussing their teaching, with an eye to improvement (both individual and departmental). However, if individuals wish to use observations to provide evidence about the quality of their teaching, they may wish to keep a brief written summary on file. This may follow a standard protocol, or may simply be a summary of strengths, areas for improvement, and follow-up actions. Anyone wanting to complete either the LSE Teaching Record or LSE Teaching Certificate will be expected to include written reports on teaching observations.
At the end of the observation, it is worth considering any follow-up action which might be useful. This could take a number of forms:
asking the person observed to give a brief input (eg, at a departmental or course meeting) on a particularly valuable component of his/her teaching - in order to spread good practice further;
asking for specialist advice - possibly on aspects of teaching, or on areas of content;
arranging for further observations focused on a given issue, where the person tries out different approaches to tackle a given issue;
attending relevant courses/workshops/using other resources.
It may be useful to establish how action will be followed through.
Use of Lecture capture
A useful adjunct to teaching observation is to record a teaching session using the Echo 360 lecture capture system. This enables the individual to get a feel for him/herself of how the teaching comes across, and to check back on issues raised in the observation discussion. If you are interested in exploring this option further please contact the Teaching and Learning Centre at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you require any further information or support on establishing peer observation of teaching in your department, please contact Liz Barnett (Director, Teaching and Learning Centre, email: email@example.com, ext. 6623).
Sample teaching observation form
A sample feedback form from a teaching observation made in the 2010/11 session (Word) is provided for illustrative purposes.
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