A second edition of Nancy Chism's excellent source, Peer Review of
Teaching, is out. In the opinion of this editor, it is the definitive
resource on peer review. Besides providing excellent summaries of
relevant research and translating those findings into concrete guidelines,
the book is packed with resources including checklists, review questions,
and instruments relevant to the assessment of multiple aspects of teaching
from course materials to classroom instruction (be it in a lab, studio,
clinical setting, or online) to advising to course and teaching
portfolios. It's a book no teaching library should be without.
To illustrate, here's a condensed version of the seven "overall
guidelines" she offers for classroom observations by peers.
- "It cannot be assumed that peer reviewers are skilled classroom
observers." Faculty need to be trained for the task. If they are, the
reliability of their observations increases.
- "A single classroom observation by one rater is not a reliable
indicator of teaching quality." How many observations are needed? Some
researchers recommend three; others, two different reviewers each doing
two observations; still others, three or four reviewers observing between
eight and ten of the instructor's classes.
- Pre-observation information is needed to provide context for what
to be observed. Observers need details about the course, the instructor,
and the students.
- When in class, the observation needs to be focused. Checklists
are a great way of helping the observer look at specific aspects of the
instruction. Questions and other more general guidelines can be used.
Multiple examples are included in the book.
- "The observer should try to be as unobtrusive as possible." This
means the peer is an observer, not a participant in the class. Once the
observer starts participating, the focus is not longer exclusively on
observing the teaching and students' responses to it. Moreover, those
observer contributions affect responses of both the teacher and the
- Observing for a substantial amount of time is necessary. If the
class is an hour long, peers should observe for the entire hour. It takes
times for the instructor and the class to relax and move into teaching
behaviors that are typical.
- Notes, forms, or letters should be completed promptly after the
observation. The information gleaned from being in the class remains
fresh for a limited amount of time. Details become increasing difficult
to remember when time lapses between observation and preparation of the
Reference:: Chism, N.V.N. (2007). Peer Review of Teaching: A sourcebook.
2nd Ed. Bolton, Mass.: Anker. (Note: Anker Publishing belongs to
Jossey-Bass. For ordering information go to www.josseybass.com.)