Peer Observations

Montclair State University is committed to excellence in teaching. Peer observation is a means of enhancing the quality of teaching and learning, and supporting effective faculty development. The benefits of successful peer observation of teaching include:

  • Preventing pedagogical solitude by making teaching more visible and encouraging ongoing critical reflection and development among faculty about the quality of their teaching (Gosling, 2013).
  • Fostering a community around the scholarship of teaching and learning through the diffusion of evidence-based practices (Lane et al., 2020).
  • Demonstrating to students departmental commitment to effective teaching practices (Sullivan, et al., 2012).
  • Providing qualitative evidence to supplement student evaluations which generally focus on their levels of satisfaction rather than any deep perspectives on pedagogy (O’Keefe et al., 2009).

Observations can be formative, offering information focused on helping instructors improve their teaching, or summative, focusing primarily on evaluation for personnel decisions or the like. Some observations may combine both types. Regardless of the type, observations are most valuable when they allow the instructor to see their teaching more clearly both in terms of what is working well and what could be improved.

Peer evaluations should be based both on class observations and review of course materials, such as syllabi, readings, and assessments, as determined by the department or program. The most effective observations follow a clear process and use a form or template developed or adopted by a department or program.

Observation Templates

Best Practices for Peer Observations

Key Components

  1. Selection of a mutually convenient date; the class to be observed should include instruction (not primarily an exam, for example).
  2. A pre-observation meeting (virtual or in person) to discuss the process and allow the observer an understanding of the context of the session to be observed, or, in the case of asynchronous online courses, the extent of the course to review (including which module[s]).
  3. The actual observation. For asynchronous online courses, the observation may take a different form and include reviewing a particular Canvas module, for example. The reviewer should have access to the course for at least three weeks, to accommodate time for review and follow-up, as needed.
  4. A written report, possibly amended after the post-observation feedback meeting.
  5. A post-observation feedback meeting (virtual or in person) that entails review of the observation and an exchange of ideas between the observer and observed instructor about what went well and strategies for improvement (Siddiqui et al., 2007).



Pre-observation Meeting 

Estimated Time: 15-20 minutes


Observer and instructor meet to:

  • Discuss the content and the context of the teaching session.
  • Discuss any relevant information about class dynamics.
  • Determine the particular concerns of the instructor. 
  • Review the classroom visit and logistics (where should the observer sit, if/how the observer should be introduced, etc.)
Conducting the Observation 

Estimated Time: Duration of class period


Observer should:

  • Schedule time to arrive early and stay until the last student has left.
  • Bring a copy of the appropriate peer observation template for reference.
  • Conduct a “fact-based” observation. Record what the instructor and students do. Include quotes and examples.
  • Document your observations of small segments of the class.
  • Sit outside the instructor’s line of sight to reduce anxiety.

Observer should not:

  • Provide judgmental, discouraging critical feedback.
  • Focus solely on the problems observed.
  • Point out areas of improvement without providing suggestions for improvement.
Observation Report

Estimated Time: 30-60 minutes

Observer should provide a written report that includes both the summary or log of the session and feedback on the class and any other materials provided. Ideally this is provided to the instructor within one-two weeks of the class observed.

Much as is the case with feedback we offer students, effective peer feedback is:

  • Descriptive—of the actions rather than personality
  • Specific—rather than general
  • Sensitive to the needs of the receiver as well the giver
  • Directed—toward behavior and action that can be changed
  • Timely—offered as close to the teaching event as possible
  • Selective—addressing one or two key issues rather than many at once 
Post-observation Feedback Meeting


Estimated Time: 20 – 25 minutes

Observer and instructor should meet soon after the session and sharing of the report for further discussion or debriefing:

  • Invite the instructor to begin by sharing their reflections. What sense did they have of the class and what worked and didn’t work? How did class play out in expected and unexpected ways?
  • Solicit questions the instructor has about your report or suggestions.
  • Elaborate on the strengths and areas of improvement you noted.
Resources and References

Gosling, D. (2013). Collaborative peer-supported review of teaching. In J. Sachs & M. Parsell (eds.). Peer review of learning and teaching in higher education: International perspectives (pp. 13-31), Dordrecht Springer.

Lane, A. K., McAlpin, J. D., Earl, B., Feola, S. Lewis, J. E. (2020). Innovative teaching knowledge stays with users. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United State of America. 

O’Keefe, M., Lecouteur, A., Miller, J., & McGowan, U. (2009). The colleague development program: A multidisciplinary program observation partnerships. Medical Teacher, 31, 1060-1065.

Siddiqui, Z. S., Jonas-Dwyer, D., & Carr, S. E. (2007). Twelve tips for peer observation of teaching. Medical Teacher, 29, 297-300.

Sullivan, P. B., Buckle, A., Nicky, G., & Atkinson, S. H. (2012). Peer observation of teaching as a faculty development tool. BMC Medical Education, 12(26), 1-6.


Adapted from Peer Observation of Teaching: Maximizing Benefits for Teaching and Learning, by the Oregon State University Center for Teaching and Learning, which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


For more information or help, please email the Office for Faculty Excellence or make an appointment with a consultant.

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