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Peer Teaching observation is different from peer review.

You arent asked to review,

rank, or evaluate your peers for the program. A teaching observation gives formative
information, not evaluative information. Formative information is response that helps a
person improve, change, and grow as a teacher while evaluative information compares
and critiques. An observation report is not a letter of recommendation.
Why should you arrange for a teaching observation?

It helps us learn about what other people do in their classroom. It provides a

forum for improving teaching for both observed and observer. It keeps us on our
toes as teachers and helps us avoid thinking we know everything about our

Its an FTLA requirement: youre expected to ask one peer member to visit your
class and write a letter for your teaching portfolio. In the future, inviting a peer to
visit your class each semester is even better.
Gaining new ideas and perspectives about teaching from colleague(s) is a good
A Suggested Procedure for Effective Peer Visits (for use in FTLA & in future)

Consider who might be a helpful observer. Sometimes you may want a friend who
will encourage you and tell you specifically about whats going great. Sometimes
you may want someone whos been teaching longer, who teaches differently, or
who knows about a specific area troubling you to give you a different perspective
on your teaching.
Ask the person early in the semester to visit. Experience tells us that it may take
several weeks before a mutually convenient time to visit occurs.
Discuss your teaching extensively with your observer before the visit; give the
observer a copy of your syllabus or course info sheet, any handouts, and a brief
written plan for the class session he/she will visit. Talk about how the observation
might benefit both of you. Decide before the class session how the observer
would like to be introduced and how involved in the class activities the observer
might be. The observer should take your lead here: Are you comfortable with the
observer sitting in the corner taking notes the whole time? Would you prefer the
observer to join in discussion? Would you mind the observer floating to several
small groups during workshops, etc.?
Arrange a time after the class visit to discuss the class session. (Dont wait too
long.) An observer might ask, How do you think it went? allowing the teacher

to assess the class first. Both teacher and observer might have some questions
ready for each other.
Give the observer a deadline for producing a letter (3-4 weeks at least) for your
files. Ask the observer to address and hand the letter to you directly; then hand it
in for your teaching file. You should always be able to decide whether to include
peer observation reports in your teaching file.
Offer to reciprocate the visit.
What if you observe a bad class? If the teacher decides the class just went ballistic, the
observer might generously offer to observe another class day. Everyone has bad class
days, often for no particular reason on the part of the teacher. If youre the observer and
you see something coming from students you are concerned about (racist teasing, for
example), your teacher probably wants to know about it. Approach the teacher assuming
she knows nothing about it. If youre the observer and you see something coming from a
teacher you are concerned about (insulting students, for example), talk to Bradley, Scott,
or Deborah about it before writing your observation report.
Teaching Observation Checklist Use the following either as 1) a checklist for what to
write about in your observation report, 2) suggestions for discussion before and after your
visit, or 3) as a form to aid your notes as you observe.
Course and section:
Date and time:
Describe the lesson or the activities, including the topic, objectives or goals, and
methods used. Describe any physical conditions in the classroom which affected
Describe the instructors contribution of content, questions, techniques.
Describe the organization of the class; describe the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Describe the clarity of the presentation and/or the instructions, new terms or
assignments, examples.
Describe the appropriateness of the activities in level and quality for first-year writing
students and the first-year writing program.
Describe the instructors style of presentation, enthusiasm, confidence, etc.
Describe how the instructor established and maintained contact and communication
with students.
Describe how the students showed their interest, preparation, participation, and comfort

with asking relevant questions and offering relevant opinions. Describe the
classroom climate.
Describe the major strengths and weaknesses of the instructor and activities during this
class. Describe the innovative and remarkable things you see.
Describe major recommendations for improving: building on strengths and minimizing
Describe how typical or non-typical this class session was for the teacher.
Describe your role and activities as an observer.
Describe the teachers assessment of the class session afterward.
Adapted from Peer Review of Writing Faculty by Ellen Strenski in Evaluating
Teachers of Writing (NCTE, 1994).
Sample Peer Observation Letter
Peer Observation Letter for ____________
March 14, 2005
I observed _______s 1102 classroom this spring on March 14, the Wednesday before
spring break. The class met in ______. Before class, ______ and I discussed her plans for
the class session and that I would remain with one small group during their revision
workshops. The majority of the class session was devoted to the revision workshops. The
students were on their second draft of a paper on times in their lives when they changed
their opinions. All the students were to bring copies of their drafts for their peers. _____
said she was worried about the level of revision the students were doing (were they doing
enough global revision or too much editing?). She was also concerned about one student
who seemed distanced and unable to participate in workshops, unless she wasphysically
present in the group.
______ put the assignment for Friday on the chalkboard: Read Chapter 4 in
Convergences and write journal entry describing how you might incorporate outside
sources in your drafts. The students jotted the information down as she discussed from
the front of the room the assignment and reminded them of the due date for final version
of the current paper. The next 10 minutes of class was a review of responding techniques
from previous revision workshops, which she wrote on the board. Students provided most
of the items and defined them with examplesa few complained about how difficult one
technique was and _____ asked them if theyd like to discuss it further with her in their
workshop when she could give them more examples.

The students then moved to their workshop groups without need for more instruction.
The group who moved nearest to my chair said I could listen in. All of them seemed
comfortable and prepared to follow the workshop model _____ had presented. They were
genuinely interested in each others papers and most of the responses were for more
information and narrative in the papers. They were unsure about what to do when they
finished early, but ______ noticed as she floated from group to group, and engaged them
in further discussion about their draftsareas that they had forgotten to consider in their
_______ dismissed groups as they finished, after speaking to each group and asking if
they had any questions about Fridays assignment or what to do next with their drafts.
Three students stayed after class to talk about previous assignments, absences, and make
I was struck by how much activity _____ managed to pack into one class, with calm and
easily-followed directions to move us from one action to the next. I was also interested in
the responding techniques she used, especially one called believing and doubting that I
plan to use next semester in my 1101 class.
Afterwards, _____ and I discussed her desire to improve the intensity level of the
revision workshops, our shared surprise that the students could recall so many responding
techniques, and her continuing concern for the one student. We talked about conferencing
with the student or giving the student a tentative course grade out of sequence with the
other students to show him how his participation was affecting his grade.
I am happy to have had the opportunity to observe _______s first-year writing class. I
learned much that I will be able to incorporate when I teach ENC 1102 next semester.
Sincerely,(Your signature)(Your name typed)