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Teaching Observation

A Component of Holistic Review of Teaching

Teaching observation (sometimes called “peer review of teaching,” “peer observation of teaching,” or “peer evaluation of teaching”) involves seeking feedback from an informed colleague for the purposes of improving one’s practice (formative assessment) and/or evaluating it (summative assessment). In 2010, the TAMU Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force recommended having separate review processes for formative and summative assessment using multiple sources of data from students, peers, administrators, and as well as faculty themselves for evaluating teaching.

The Center assists departments with setting up a teaching observation process. For additional information, email cte@tamu.edu.


What are the Purposes for Teaching Observation?
Benefits of Teaching Observation
Establishing a Formal Teaching Observation Process
Texas A&M Framework and Observation Tools
Three Basic Steps to Reviewing
Additional Resources
Research and Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Purpose for Teaching Observation


There are many possible components to providing feedback on teaching, such as observing classrooms, evaluating and giving feedback on course design and assessment practices, and reviewing examples of student products. Formative evaluations, if done well, can help improve teaching and inform summative decisions. Additionally, a well-established teaching observation plan can make very meaningful differences in ways that departments talk about teaching effectiveness and encourage collaboration in reaching departmental goals. Exploration of the information and links on this webpage will give insight into some of the benefits of teaching observation, processes for implementing a teaching observation program, and tools to aid in those processes.


Although the diagram above demonstrates how formative reviews can inform summative decisions, the primary focus of CTE is to aid departments in establishing a teaching observation process that will allow faculty to review each other’s teaching for the purpose of improving teaching. The focus on improvement based on genuine colleague feedback offers faculty an opportunity to improve aspects of their teaching without worrying about the data collected being used against them in formal evaluations. In this case, faculty members can choose whether or not to use the materials in presenting their teaching achievements and improvements for formal evaluations.

Benefits of Teaching Observation

Teaching observation can be especially helpful in providing formative feedback that students are not equipped to evaluate. Peers are a good source of information and can provide constructive feedback about an instructor’s capacity to select relevant course content, the quality of organization and planning for a class, the appropriateness of instructional materials and assessment methods, and the instructor’s concern for student learning.

Teaching observation is not only beneficial to the person being reviewed, but also for the evaluator. Teaching involves learning from our experiences and the experiences of others. Observing a class or reviewing a colleague’s course materials allows instructors to reflect on their own teaching philosophy and methods. The dialogue that stems from a well-established teaching observation process can positively impact a department’s emphasis on teaching excellence.

Initial Considerations When Establishing a Formal Teaching Observation Process

While the process will be unique to meet each department’s needs, there are some basic guidelines that can help when establishing a formal teaching observation program. The following recommendations were adapted from Chism’s (2007) Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook:
  1. Attain leadership support.
  2. Determine readiness for developing a teaching observation system. This can include a survey of faculty opinions regarding their understanding of teaching observation and willingness to engage in a process.
  3. Develop a statement for the department regarding how teaching will be evaluated. Specifically:
    1. ​Who may benefit from this program?
    2. What are the purposes of the program (development, documentation for merit increases or promotions etc.)?
    3. What areas of teaching will be assessed (classroom observations, teaching portfolios, syllabi, course portfolios, etc.)?
    4. How will the evidence be collected?
    5. What resources will be available for establishing and sustaining a teaching observation process?
    6. How will the plan be documented and communicated?
    7. How will the plan be monitored and assessed?
    8. How often should the plan be reviewed?
  4. Design of teaching observation system
    1. Which faculty members will be involved?
    2. When and how often will the review(s) be conducted?
    3. Criteria
    4. Evidence
    5. Standards
    6. Instruments for performing reviews
    7. Procedures for conducting and recording reviews
    8. Provisions for preparation of reviews
    9. Provisions for revision of the plan
If your department is considering establishing a teaching observation process, the following document can help to guide initial discussions: Teaching Observation Process Development Questions


The Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force developed a framework (below) for evaluating teaching based on a review of the literature, the experiences of peer institutions, and the experiences of faculty at Texas A&M. CTE can provide a variety of tools that departments can adapt to best suit their needs when choosing forms for evaluation that can be linked to the framework developed by the task force. Because the primary focus should be to improve teaching rather than officially evaluate it, these forms provide faculty with a way to standardize the feedback that is exchanged during the teaching observation process. Should a faculty member decide to use this information in their P&T file to demonstrate growth and commitment to teaching, these forms are an efficient way to do so.

Texas A&M Framework and Observation Tools

Framework of Faculty Teaching Performance Evaluation

Annotated Framework of Faculty Teaching Performance Evaluation

2020 Self Reflection on Teaching Form

2020 Pre-Observation Reflection Form

2020 Classroom Observation Environmental Scan Data Collection Form

2020 Classroom Observation Feedback Report Form

2020 Course Design Feedback Form
2020 Course Design and Classroom Observation Feedback Form

2020 Post-Observation Reflection Form

Pre-Classroom Observation Narrative Form A-PDF

Pre-Classroom Observation Narrative Form B-PDF

Classroom Observation Checklist-PDF

Post-Observation Reflection Form-PDF

Syllabus Review Form-PDF

Web-based Instruction Review Form-PDF

Three Basic Steps to Reviewing

Once a teaching observation process has been established and tools have been identified and agreed upon, a best practice for conducting reviews includes three basic steps:

  1. Pre-review Dialogue: In this stage, the person being reviewed establishes a context for the course by discussing the objectives of the document (e.g. syllabus review) or class session to be reviewed. Questions or concerns are also addressed, and this can allow the reviewee to establish which aspect of teaching s/he is seeking feedback on. Mutual expectations are also established at this stage.

  2. Review Itself: In this stage, the observer examines the instructional materials or observes a class session, interprets the material or situation (through rubrics or commentary), and makes recommendations to the reviewee.

  3. Post-review Dialogue/ Documentation/ Reflection: In this stage, the reviewer provides constructive and action-oriented feedback that includes specific examples. The reviewee reflects, makes (and records) decisions or plans for moving forward based on the feedback received.

Source: Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (Chism, 2007)

Additional Resources
  1. 2010 Report: TAMU Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force
  2. Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook by Nancy Van Note Chism provides an excellent overview of peer review of teaching and the processes for implementing the process.
  3. Temple University: 12 Tips for Peer Observation of Teaching provides an outline of some tips for making observation of a class more effective.
Research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning
  1. Bell, A., & Mladenovic, R. (2008). The benefits of peer observation of teaching for tutor development. Higher Education, 55(6), 735-752. doi:10.1007/s10734-007-9093-1.
  2. Carter, V. K. (2008). Five steps to becoming a better peer reviewer, College Teaching, 56(2), 85-88. doi: 10.3200/CTCH.56.2.85-88
  3. Kohut, G., Burnap, C., & Yon, M. (2007). Peer observation of teaching: Perceptions of the observer and the observed. College Teaching, 55(1), 19-25. doi: 10.3200/CTCH.55.1.19-25
  4. O'Keefe, M., Lecouteur, A., Miller, J., & McGowan, U. (2009). The colleague development program: A multidisciplinary program of peer observation partnerships. Medical Teacher, 31(12), 1060-1065. doi:10.3109/01421590903154424.
  5. Seldin, P. (2006). Evaluating faculty performance: A practical guide to assessing teaching, research, and service. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.