Analysis of Class Observations or Videotape

Peer observation of teaching in the classroom setting offers insight into instructor-student interactions and a snapshot of the learning environment beyond what can be obtained by student evaluations (CIFs) or instructor self-reporting. Reports from peer observers can include narratives, checklists, rating guides, or, ideally, a combination of these. To increase the reliability of classroom observation, care should be taken to minimize the potential for bias. Bias can take the form of divergence among observers as to, among other things, appropriate levels of preparation, ideas about what constitutes good teaching and prior impressions of the instructor.  Bias can also include inconsistency in the process — e.g., observation instruments, recording methods, reporting methods, number of observers, criteria for selection of course(s) to be observed. Minimizing bias and maximizing reliability are particularly important when high-stakes decisions such as tenure and promotion are involved.

  • Practices that increase the reliability and equity of the classroom observation process—and the resulting reports:
    • Beginning the process with departmental consultation and reflection to achieve consensus on criteria for effective teaching in the discipline.
    • Selecting/developing appropriate observation forms.
    • Familiarizing observers with the forms and their use.
    • Basing assessment on several observations by more than one observer.
    • Keeping all participants informed about the process.
    • Providiing opportunities for instructor input.
    • Monitoring the process for consistent application.
  • Practices that guide the selection/development of classroom observation forms and procedures:
    • Basing selection/development of items on departmental criteria for effective teaching.
    • Ensuring that forms and procedures are clear and limit reliance on inference.
    • Ensuring that forms and procedures are sufficiently flexible to accommodate differences in course type, instructional style, etc.
    • Specifing the format and procedure for documenting observations in class, for writing the observation report and for communicating results to the instructor.
  • Considerations for consistent implementation of classroom observation:
    • The observers — eligibility, selection, preparation, and consistency
    • The course(s) — method of selection, number of observers, and number of observations (announced or unannounced).

Peer observation can also foster collaborative reflection on teaching and mutually-supportive, collegial relationships. Observations for these purposes should be separate from those for renewal, tenure, and promotion.

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