Reflection is necessary for growth. It helps us identify the gaps in our knowledge, our strengths and weaknesses and confirms our beliefs. At Lethbridge College, the peer observation process occurs every three years and provides an excellent tool to foster a reflective practice.
Peer observation is a formative, collaborative process designed to provide instructors feedback on their teaching while fostering dialogue and reflection. It encourages instructors to critically assess the information presented by their observers to inform and grow their practice. Through peer observations you have the opportunity to gain insights into your teaching and potentially discover new ideas, new teaching strategies to implement, or new uses of technology to grow your teaching practice and enhance the learning of your students.
Reflection is the first step in the peer observation process. Reflect on your teaching practice over the past three years to develop your goals. Here’s some things to consider:
- What has worked well?
- What has not worked well?
- What are you struggling with?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Can you ask others for feedback?
- Reflect on Lethbridge College strategic goals
- Reflect on program goals
Once you have formed your goals, choose your observers. To ensure integrity and remain multi-faceted, Lethbridge College uses two observers; one discipline specific and one cross disciplinary.
When choosing your observers consider who has the experience and knowledge to help you obtain your goals. If you’re not sure who that might be you will need to do some research. Check the faculty spreadsheet in the Peer Observation Canvas course to peruse the experience of your colleagues participating in the Peer Observation process this year. Ask your colleagues for ideas and be flexible, in some circumstances your observer might not be located from within the College. You may feel that the best content specialist is someone from outside our College community. You can also draw on staff in EET for your multi-disciplinary observer. Once you have your observers, check in with your Dean to discuss your goals and choice of observers. These meetings generally occur in early October.
The next order of business is to choose which class you would like your observer to attend. Reflect on your goals and choose the date based on those goals. Are you looking for feedback on student engagement? Be sure to choose a class that that reflects this goal.
Once you have the date pinned down, contact your observer to schedule a pre-observation meeting. In this meeting you will discuss your goals with your observer, and give them any information regarding your course and class that you would like to share. For example, you might want to talk about the instructional strategies you will be using, your students and their ability level or any other contextual information that would be helpful. If you would like your observer to use a template during the observation you will also share this information. Observation templates can be found in the Peer Observation Handbook as well as in the canvas course. Remember, this is your process. Do what best reflects your goals for growth.
At this point you are well on your way to a successful Peer Observation year!
After your observation, you will schedule a time to meet with your observer to review their feedback. It’s best if this happens within a week of the observation. It’s important to be open to feedback and new ideas during this meeting. Teaching is a very personal profession, we take our teaching very seriously. Remember, your observer will be giving you feedback on your facilitation of learning, not questioning your personal attributes. Feel free to ask questions, they often lead to great conversations about teaching and learning.
Repeat the activity again for your second observation and you are close to finishing your peer observation process.
Student feedback is an important component of any growth process in teaching. We need the student’s point of view to enhance our practice. You can choose to use the standard online surveys or you can opt for a student focus group. A student focus group is an excellent way to get specific feedback from your students. It does take a portion of your class time, but a consultant from EET can engage your students in a confidential and safe environment to really get answers to your questions.
Then it’s time to reflect again. What did you learn? How can you use that information? How will this inform your PD planning? At this point you are ready to book another appointment with your dean and complete the self-reflection and summary reports found in both the handbook and in the canvas shell. These reports along with your three-year PD plan are due to your Dean at least a week prior to the final review meeting in May.
Peer Observation is a valuable tool to foster a reflective practice. Often we’re so busy teaching we forget about those notes we made on x activity in this class or that class. I’ve learned through experience that teaching takes constant tweaking to find the right fit for you and your students. The peer observation process allows you to gather feedback from your peers, your students, your dean and yourself. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do it every year?