Benefits of Teaching Observations: September 2021 Bulletin

Resources to Enhance Teaching and Learning at Clark University

Benefits of Teaching Observations (Colleague Assessment)

Peer feedback is a process that is often used by faculty to help their students assess one another and grow as learners and thinkers. Just like students, faculty also have room for growth in their teaching practices, making peer teaching observation and feedback amongst colleagues an important professional development practice. This bulletin outlines how teaching observations work, the various benefits, and the different ways in which observations with peer feedback can be done.

What is Colleague Assessment?

Colleague assessment is a practice of faculty-to-faculty evaluation of one another’s teaching. Colleague assessment is not a one size fits all model, and varies based on department procedures for faculty review and intended learning goals for students. Colleague Assessment can be formative or summative, although this bulletin focuses on formative practices. Formative colleague assessment helps faculty to focus on student learning. By determining what students have learned and what is unclear, instructors can adjust their pedagogical practices to more effectively to meet students’ learning needs (teaching@Tufts).

Benefits of Colleague Assessment

  • Less pressure/reliance placed on student evaluations —> allows for faculty to experiment with teaching practices that students may not be familiar/comfortable with

  • Greater innovation in teaching can foster in a collaborative environment

  • Helpful for assessor and assessed

  • Engaging in peer faculty review may improve quality of feedback given to students on their work

  • Studies have shown that Student Evaluations of Teaching often advantage certain genders and backgrounds —> colleague assessment provides another perspective on the teaching and learning process, thereby reducing some of this potential bias

Colleague Assessment- Best Practices

  • Welcome different perspectives! Don’t confine evaluators to only senior staff within a department. Some things to consider when picking evaluation team/individuals are: institutional experience, integrity, trust, mentorship, and exceptional knowledge on subject material

  • Promote and encourage colleague assessment – view it as a learning experience and not something to be feared.

  • Allow for collaboration in assessment: does not have to be highly standardized, can be as formal or informal as needed by the situation

Focus Areas in Colleague Assessment

Methods for Reflection in Learning

Content knowledge

  • Selection of class content worth knowing and appropriate to the course
  • Provided appropriate context and background
  • Mastery of class content
  • Presented divergent viewpoints

Clear and effective class organization

  • Clear statement of learning goals
  • Relationship of lesson to course goals, and past and future lessons
  • Logical sequence
  • Appropriate pace for student understanding

Varied methods for engagement, which may include

  • In-class writing
  • Analysis of quotes, video, artifacts
  • Group discussions
  • Student-led discussions
  • Debates
  • Case studies
  • Learning logs, journals


  • Project voice
  • Clarity of explanation
  • Eye contact
  • Defined difficult terms, concepts, principles
  • Use of examples
  • Varied explanations for difficult material
  • Used humor appropriately

Teacher-Student Interactions

  • Effective questioning
  • Warm and welcoming rapport
  • Use of student names
  • Encouraging of questions and questions
  • Pacing appropriate for student level, activity
  • Concern for individual student needs

Appropriateness of instructional materials

  • Content that matches course goals
  • Content that is rigorous, challenging
  • Content that is appropriate to student experience, knowledge
  • Adequate preparation required
  • Audio/visual materials effective
  • Written assignments

Student engagement

  • Student interest
  • Enthusiasm
  • Participation
  • Student-to-student interaction

Support of departmental/program/school instructional efforts

  • Appropriate content
  • Appropriate pedagogy
  • Appropriate practice
For full list, please visit Vanderbilt Peer Review. Additional resources can be found at Inside Higher Ed- Peer Review  and Formative Peer Review of Teaching


As well as  Fletcher, J.A. (2018). Peer observation of teaching: a practical tool in higher education. Journal of Faculty Development 32 (1), 1-14; Goldberg, L.R., et al. (2010). Peer review: the importance of education for best practice. Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 7 (2), 71-84; Lowder, L., et al. (2017). Peer observation: improvement of teaching effectiveness through class participation at a polytechnic university.Journal of STEM Education, 18 (4), 51-56.


CETL Bulletins are available on the CETL Blog and archived on the CETL Moodle page. Contact Laurie Ross ( to make requests for teaching and learning resources that would be helpful to you!