Peer & Student Evaluations

Suggestions and Tips for Peer Evaluation of Teaching

We cannot overstate the value of careful peer observation of teaching. Thoughtfully constructed input helps to support and encourage faculty teaching and student learning. We provide here some tips and suggestions for faculty and faculty observers that utilizes a three-step collaborative process:

Step 1: Pre-observation

Observee: Take the opportunity to discuss your goals and aims for your class. This can be done in person or in writing. (If provided in writing, these self-reflections may form part of your teaching portfolio.) Use this opportunity to provide a holistic overview of your course. What are your learning objectives? Are there any specific challenges that you’ll be facing? (e.g., a new prep; first time teaching online; diverse academic prep of students, etc..) How do you approach these challenges? What do you think works well? What might need improvement?

Observer: Read the observee’s self-reflection and make note of key points. Look at student evaluations of the course (if available.) Are faculty and student opinions aligned? Discuss with your observe whether they would like to meet prior to the class observation class to discuss any particular issue

Step 2: Classroom observation

Observee: Let your students know that a faculty member will be observing your class and that you have asked for constructive criticism. This helps communicate to your students that you care about their learning. It also models and normalizes for students the idea that we should all seek feedback on our work to help us grow and develop professionally.

Observer: Where possible, attend more than one class. The general observation forms (next section) can be used or adapted to help guide your reflections. Any one of the “special lenses” forms may also be used, if helpful. Highlight any strengths that you observe and make suggestions for possible improvement.

Step 3: Post-observation

Observee and Observer: Using the information garnered from previous two steps, discuss and clarify observations. Think about and document next steps, including utilizing available resources, where helpful.

Student feedback on instruction plays a significant role in development of teaching excellence. Student feedback is a widely used method to evaluate and improve teaching effectiveness because it helps instructors gage what practices facilitate learning and what adjustments to instructional strategies improve student learning.

Student Feedback to Support Instruction

Student feedback is collected in a variety of ways including, among others:

  • Through student performance on assignments and assessments
  • Through formal and informal surveys of student perceptions
  • Though Student Evaluation of Teaching (SETs)/Student Evaluation of Instruction (SEIs)
  • Through observation of classrooms or other learning contexts
  • Through short written responses at the end of a class session or learning activity

CTLA supports the formative use of student feedback and provides confidential, one-on-one consultation to assist instructors in transforming feedback into valuable instructional refinements.

CTLA Early- and Mid-term Feedback Survey

In particular, CTLA provides instructors access to an early-term feedback survey that can be administered typically during weeks 3 to 5 of a semester course or the first-third of courses offered during the summer or on an alternate schedule. The survey can be administered in the Learning Management System, via Qualtrics, or in paper form. Instructors may also choose to administer this survey midterm.

Small Group Instructional Diagnosis

CTLA-trained facilitators are available to conduct Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID).

What is a SGID?

A SGID is a structured session during which groups of students are asked to identify:

Features of the course and methods of instruction that contribute to their learning.

Features course and methods of instruction that could be changed to support learning.

Who needs a SGID?

Any instructor interested in teaching excellence can benefit from a SGID. It is especially helpful when instructors want to understand student opinions about the course as a whole or specific classroom issues. It also helps instructors to identify specific teaching problems when they sense something is not “working well” but can’t identify the cause or when students continue to struggle in a particular area or with specific concepts or tasks.

How does a SGID work?

The benefits of Small Group Instructional Diagnosis is related to the trained facilitation and pre-session and follow-up consultation. SGID steps include:

  1. A meeting between the instructor and CTLA facilitator to discuss the coruse and goals for the feedback session
  2. A SGID facilitator classroom “interview” with students during which the facilitator introduces learners to the goals of the session and places them in small groups. Those groups are asked open-ended questions and come to a consensus, then the groups come together to provide constructive feedback. (This part of the process takes between 25 and 25 minutes of class time.)
  3. A follow-up meeting to review feedback and discuss adaptations to or refinements of the course or its instruction or other methods of responding.
  4. In-class debriefing of students.

The reasons for taking advantage of these programs include:

  • The ability to obtain systematic feedback from students early in the semester.
  • The ability to identify changes that might improve student learning and satisfaction early enough for change implementation.
  • The ability to indicate to students the importance of their experience and their learning.
  • Students feeling their voices have been heard.
  • In the case of SGIDs, the representation of group attitudes about the course and instruction as opposed to individual attitudes.
  • In the case of SGIDs, consensus building among a group that may have divergent viewpoints. Some students may find that others interpret contexts much differently than they do.

To request access to the survey or a SGID, contact CTLA.