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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

4.6: Guidelines on Peer Observation of Teaching

This guidance has been superceded by new, holistic proposals approved by Senate on Evaluating for Teaching Excellence (S/19/44 refers). An updated policy will be uploaded here in due course.

University guidelines on peer observation of teaching

The aims of peer observation

1. The sharing and discussion of individual teaching practice that takes place through peer observation has significant potential to support the enhancement of teaching practice, and thereby enhance the quality of the student learning experience. In accordance with this, the aims of peer observation at Durham University are:

a. To support staff in identifying strengths in learning and teaching and potential areas for improvement, and help them to capitalise on these strengths and make improvements.

b. To enable teaching staff (observers and observees) to learn from each other and mutually improve their teaching practice.

c. To strengthen the teaching culture as colleagues reflect on and discuss their teaching with one another.

d. To identify good practice to be disseminated within departments and, where appropriate, faculties and the University.


2. In support of these aims, the University has approved the following guidelines for the operation of departmental peer observation schemes:

a. All departments/schools are expected to have in place a peer observation scheme that ensures that all teaching staff (full- and part-time) are peer observed at least once every two years (with the exception of postgraduate students engaged in teaching, who should be observed annually).

b. Departments/schools may make a case to their Faculty Education Committee to operate an alternative process to peer observation, provided that this alternative meets the University's defined aims for peer observation.

c. Departmental/school peer observation schemes should cover both undergraduate and taught postgraduate provision, and all modes of teaching used by the department/school. Schemes should seek to ensure that over a four year period (i.e. two full cycles for departments/school operating a biennial peer observation cycle) all modes of teaching used the department/school are reviewed.

d. Good practice in the conduct of observations involves a pre-meeting between the observer and observee to discuss the class and the use of a proforma to record observations and structure feedback (an example of such a proforma is available at a7.03, but there is no requirement that departments use this particular form).

e. All departments/schools should have in place mechanisms to disseminate good practice identified by peer observation. There are a number of ways in which this may be done, and it is for departments/schools to determine the most effective approach in their disciplinary context.

f. Departments/schools will be asked to report on the effectiveness of the peer observation schemes through the annual review report submitted to Faculty Education Committees.