Peer Observation

Reciprocal peer observation can provide a valuable opportunity for supervisors to share ideas and reflect on the practice and challenges of teaching and learning.  It is productive when approached in this way and not a narrow scrutiny of ‘performance’.  There are many different ways of going about peer observation.  This page gives some guidance on a basic structure for peer observation, including preparation for the observation and for the discussion which follows it.  For those who are new to peer observation, there are also some general considerations relating to giving and receiving constructive feedback.

A basic structure for reciprocal peer observation of supervisions

  • the observation partners agree in advance of the observations what each hopes to learn through the process and when they will meet to discuss reflections and questions after the observations have taken place
  • in advance of the observations, the supervisor explain the purpose of the exercise to relevant supervisees (in particular, that the supervisees are not the subject of the observation and that they are not being assessed)
  • conduct the observation (some sample structures for observation notes may be found below)
  • supervisors meet after observations to discuss points of interest; each may wish to consider two or three points of practice that they wish to develop further

Sample structures for peer observation notes

The supervisor who will be observed provides information in advance about:

  1. the context of the supervision (for example: primary aims of the supervision)
  2. aspects of the supervision on which feedback would be particularly welcome
  3. other comments or considerations

In preparation for a discussion after the observation, the observer should:

  1. develop your analysis of what, in your opinion, went well in the supervision (and why)
  2. reflect on what, in your opinion, could be improved or developed and how this might be achieved
  3. reflect on the aspects of the supervision on which feedback was requested
  4. consider whether you would like to make any other comments or suggestions.

To get the most out of having your teaching observed, think about some or all of the following:

  1. what were the most important points to emerge from discussions with the observer?
  2. will you make any changes as a result of the discussion, either to the particular supervision (if it will be repeated) or to your supervision practice more generally?
  3. what was helpful in the observer's comments? Are there ways in which feedback on observations could be improved?
  4. are there any other comments that you would like to make about the observation?

Some general considerations about giving and receiving feedback

If you are new to peer observation, it may be helpful to consider approaches to giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Giving feedback

  • ask the supervisor who has been observed for their own reflections on the supervision first
  • remember to comment on strengths and positive aspects of the supervision observed
  • avoid bland, vague comments
  • comment on techniques, processes and behaviours: avoid speculating on motivation or intent
  • address any points that you were specifically asked to comment on
  • conclude on a positive note

Receiving feedback

  • consider your own assessment of your supervision before you begin the discussion of the observation, including what you think worked well and what might have been done differently
  • remember to listen to positive comments
  • attend to practical ways of engaging with any difficulties or challenges which your observer identifies
  • identify two or thre points that you would like to develop in the future