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Fearless Teaching Institute

UMD Libraries Fearless Teaching Institute: Always Keep Learning.

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Peer Teaching Observation

Every few years, the Fearless Teaching Institute organizes a large-scale peer-teaching observation program by pairing up interested library instructors and providing guidance and support for mutual observations. The last peer observation pairing was conducted in 2018-19; the next one is scheduled for 2022-2023. 

If you would like to conduct a peer observation during an off-year, please reach out to libues@umd.edu. We will be able to help you find another interested instructor to pair with.

What is Peer Observation?

Alabi & Weare (2014) define two types of peer observation. Formative evaluation is intended for "personal use," rather than public inspection, and is private and confidential. Summative evaluation is intended for public review and is often a requirement of a tenure or permanent status process (Alabi & Weare, p. 181). The UMD Libraries' peer teaching observation program is formative - being observed and observing are optional, and the process remains confidential between the two parties.

Peer teaching observations are a collaborative process, in which colleagues observe each other with the intention of sharing instructional experiences. Librarians who participate in a peer observation program should approach the process with an open mindset and be committed to both giving and receiving constructive criticism. Teaching observations are not intended to be punitive or judgmental. Instead, the process should be a positive, productive, and affirmative experience for both observers and observees

Best Practices for Peer Observation

Alabi & Weare's recommended best practices for engaging in peer observations:

  1. When deciding to participate in peer observations, approach the process with an openness to new ideas, willingness to receive critical feedback and commitment to prioritizing the growth and development of students.
  2. When inviting someone into your classroom, be sure to choose someone you respect, whose motivations you trust, and who will maintain confidentiality (p. 184).
  3. When choosing a suitable partner, consider colleagues with similar instructional responsibilities, but do not discount librarians in other departments, faculty in other academic units, and professionals from your center for teaching and learning (p. 185).
  4. When engaging in peer review of teaching, provide your observer with the context for the session, goals for the teaching observation, your teaching philosophy, and the degree of criticism you would like to receive (p. 186).
  5. Ask your observer to focus on an aspect of teaching that you think you should address. Giving your observer a specific focus allows him/her to pay careful attention to what you are most interested in improving (p. 187)
  6. When inviting a colleague to participate in peer review of teaching, make sure that you both set aside adequate time for the process: time for the pre-observation meeting, time for the observation itself, and perhaps most importantly, time for feedback and reflection during the post-observation discussion (p. 188).