Center for Effective Teaching

Peer Observations

The Center for Effective Teaching offers four peer observation and review services along a spectrum progressing from informal sharing of ideas and techniques to more formal review of teaching effectiveness. In brief, these services include:

  • Observing a model teacher: faculty may sit in on class(es) offered by one of our "model teachers"
  • Collaborative group observation: groups of three to four faculty members (either self-selected or facilitated by the CET) will observe each other's classes to improve their own teaching by observing others and to provide informal, constructive feedback to members of the group
  • Peer review: faculty may choose to be observed by a faculty member who has been trained by the CET and will utilize CET-developed rubrics to provide formative feedback aimed at improving teaching effectiveness
  • Mid-semester adjustment: faculty who desire the most extensive feedback on their teaching may opt for a series of meetings with the CET director or assistant director that will involve review of teaching materials, in-class observations, and discussion of CET-facilitated feedback from students

More information on each of these services, including instructions for how to schedule a particular service, is provided below. Please follow these instructions carefully to ensure we are able to meet your needs promptly and efficiently. If you have additional questions, you may contact us at cet@cnu.edu.

  • Teaching is most often a private interaction between a teacher and their students, but this privacy robs faculty of one of their most valuable sources of information about good teaching: other faculty members. The model teacher program gives CNU faculty the opportunity to see good teaching in action. Our list of model teachers, who have agreed to open their classrooms to other faculty members, describes the major teaching style of each instructor so that you can identify the individual whom you would like to observe. Review this list carefully and recognize that the best instructor for you to observe may not necessarily be in your discipline, but rather may utilize a pedagogical technique that you would like to incorporate into your classroom or would like to use more effectively.
  • Once you've chosen who you would like to observe, you should contact the model teacher directly by email; please copy cet@cnu.edu on that email so that we can track utilization of this program. This email will inform the model teacher that you would like to observe their class, and the two of you can determine a date when it would be most appropriate for you to conduct the observation. Model teachers will necessarily need to be selective about when these observations occur, as certain class periods (e.g. project work days, student presentations, exams or discussion of sensitive material) may be inappropriate for observation. In addition, model teachers who have received multiple requests may choose not to accept any further observations in a given semester; in that case, a note that the instructor is "currently unavailable for observations" will be posted on the list of model teachers. If the model teacher you most want to observe is unavailable, we suggest that you check the list at the start of the next semester to see if they are again accepting observations or consider observing another model teacher who uses similar techniques.
  • Faculty members who observe a model teacher may choose to report this activity in the "Teaching Development/Enhancement" section of Digital Measures, to be included in annual review and tenure/promotion materials. However, the decision to do so is completely voluntary and at your discretion. When you copy the CET on your email to the model teacher, we will provide you with a document with suggested best practices for using the results of this activity in evaluation materials. These best practices focus on self-reflection and growth, encouraging you to consider (and document) how you have used observation of others' teaching to improve your own teaching effectiveness.
  • Please note that our model teachers were selected, in consultation with department chairs, to represent a diversity of different disciplines and teaching styles and should in no way be interpreted as a comprehensive list of the many exceptional teachers at CNU.

  • Faculty can learn a great deal by watching others teach and getting feedback on their own teaching, and this benefit is not exclusive to situations where these faculty are "expert" teachers. In fact, peers often feel more comfortable giving and receiving honest feedback and can improve their own teaching by observing techniques used by faculty members in a similar discipline or stage of their career. The collaborative group observation program facilitates the formation of groups of three to four faculty members who would like to work together to improve their teaching effectiveness or simply continue to engage in development of teaching skills.
  • Faculty members are highly encouraged to form their own groups. If you're interested in the program, talk it up among your colleagues and get them excited about joining you. Once you have identified your group members, send an email to cet@cnu.edu to let us know you want to participate. Please include the names and email addresses of all group members in that email. If you are interested in the program but have not identified other group members, send us an email and we will do our best to connect you with other interested faculty members to form an appropriate group. In order to allow sufficient time to complete the process in a single semester, groups should be formed and the process initiated in the first five weeks of the semester.
  • Once we receive your email, we will send you some "thought questions" to discuss during your first group meeting, which should occur prior to any classroom observations. These questions will help facilitate the discussion of each group member's perceived strengths and weaknesses in the classroom and encourage discussion of what each individual hopes to gain from the observation process. Groups should also discuss confidentiality during this first meeting, and the CET can serve as a resource to aid groups in establishing appropriate expectations. We can also facilitate using the CET as a space for group meetings, although meeting for happy hour or over coffee is encouraged. Group members will then arrange to observe each other's classes and, finally, will get together for a final meeting to discuss what they learned. Individuals should expect to provide constructive feedback to other group members and to identify what they learned about their own teaching practice by watching others. Again, the CET will provide some guiding questions to assist with this discussion. Groups are encouraged to maintain their relationship, for example by scheduling follow-up meetings to discuss how they've modified their teaching based on peer feedback, setting up a book club to discuss readings in teaching and learning, or observing several model teachers and meeting to discuss what they've learned from those observations.
  • Faculty members who participate in collaborative group observation may choose to report this activity in the "Teaching Development/Enhancement" section of Digital Measures, to be included in annual review and tenure/promotion materials. However, the decision to do so is completely voluntary and at your discretion. When you contact the CET to establish your group, we will provide you with a document with suggested best practices for using the results of this activity in evaluation materials. These best practices focus on self-reflection and growth, encouraging you to consider (and document) how you have used observation of others' teaching and collaborative peer feedback to improve your own teaching effectiveness.

  • Peer reviewers are CNU faculty who have been trained by the CET to conduct classroom observations and utilize CET-developed rubrics to provide feedback on multiple aspects of teaching effectiveness, including teaching techniques and strategies, as well as classroom dynamics and management. This feedback is designed to be formative, allowing faculty members who request a peer review to engage in continued development of their teaching practice. The peer review process includes a pre-observation meeting, during which the objectives and expected outcomes of the review are discussed; two classroom observations; and a post-observation meeting, during which the peer reviewer will discuss his or her findings and provide a written report highlighting the faculty member's strengths and potential areas for improvement.
  • You may request a peer review by emailing cet@cnu.edu. In this email, please indicate which of your courses you would like observed and the meeting times for that course; this will enable us to pair you with a peer reviewer whose own class schedule will allow them to easily observe your course. The CET will pair you with a trained peer reviewer outside of your own department, and we will send you a self-assessment to complete prior to your pre-observation meeting. This self-assessment will help you communicate more clearly with the peer reviewer about your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations for requesting a review. You should bring the self-assessment, along with syllabi and any other course materials that you feel may give the reviewer insight into your teaching style, to the pre-observation meeting. At this meeting, you and the peer reviewer will also agree on when the classroom observations will occur and when you will meet to conduct the post-observation meeting. We highly recommend that the entire process (from pre- to post-observation meeting) be spread over no more than four weeks. Therefore, to complete the process in a single semester, you should request a peer review no later than Oct. 21 (in the fall) or March 10 (in the spring).
  • The peer review process is completely confidential. Peer reviewers have received strict instructions not to discuss reviews with any other faculty member and may not sit on the DRC (as the outside of department member) for any individual who they have reviewed, regardless of the length of time that has passed since the review. Similarly, if a peer reviewer serves on the FRC or the Faculty Grievance and Hearing Committee, that individual will recuse themselves from commenting or voting on the case of any individual who they have previously reviewed.
  • Faculty members who undergo a peer review may choose to report this activity in the "Teaching Development/Enhancement" section of Digital Measures, to be included in annual review and tenure/promotion materials. However, the decision to do so is completely voluntary and at your discretion. When you request a peer review, we will provide you with a document containing suggested best practices for using the results of a peer review in evaluation materials. These best practices focus on self-reflection and growth, encouraging you to consider (and document) how you have used the process to improve your teaching effectiveness. You are asked, however, not to include the full written report or to mention the name of the reviewer in evaluation materials. Instead, you should focus on what you learned and how you responded to the feedback in a way that demonstrates your continued growth as an instructor. You are encouraged to set up a consultation with the CET director if you'd like additional information or resources to assist you with addressing any potential areas for improvement identified during the peer review process.

  • The mid-semester adjustment is designed to provide extensive feedback to faculty members seeking to improve their teaching effectiveness. As with peer review, this process includes a pre-observation meeting, two classroom observations, and a post-observation meeting. However, the mid-semester adjustment also includes a third classroom visit during which the faculty member leaves the classroom for a 20-minute period, and the reviewer leads the students in a discussion aimed at probing more deeply into their perceptions of the course. The reviewer will record and summarize student comments without recording student names to ensure their anonymity. The reviewer ensures that the tone of the discussion is positive, encouraging students to give more specific examples and evidence for their perceptions than is typically recorded on written course evaluations. All mid-semester adjustments are conducted by the CET director or assistant director.
  • You may request a mid-semester adjustment by emailing cet@cnu.edu. In this email, please indicate which of your courses you would like observed and the meeting times for that course. Upon receiving your email, we will set up a date for the pre-observation meeting and send you a self-assessment to complete prior to that meeting. This self-assessment will help you more clearly communicate your strengths, weaknesses, and motivations for requesting a mid-semester adjustment. You should bring the self-assessment, along with syllabi and any other course materials that you feel may give us insight into your teaching style, to the pre-observation meeting. At this meeting, we will also agree on dates for the two classroom observations, the class period when we will get feedback from students, and the post-observation meeting. We highly recommend that the entire process (from pre- to post-observation meeting) be spread over no more than five weeks. Therefore, to complete the process in a single semester, you should request a mid-semester adjustment no later than Oct. 21 (in the fall) or March 10 (in the spring).
  • The mid-semester adjustment process is completely confidential. Neither the CET director nor assistant director is allowed to sit on DRCs, the FRC, or the Faculty Grievance and Hearing Committee.
  • Faculty members who undergo a mid-semester adjustment may choose to report this activity in the "Teaching Development/Enhancement" section of Digital Measures, to be included in annual review and tenure/promotion materials. However, the decision to do so is completely voluntary and at your discretion. When you request a mid-semester adjustment, we will provide you with a document containing suggested best practices for using the results of the process in evaluation materials. These best practices focus on self-reflection and growth, encouraging you to consider (and document) how you have used the mid-semester adjustment to improve your teaching effectiveness. You are asked, however, not to include the full written report in evaluation materials. Instead, you should focus on what you learned and how you responded to the feedback in a way that demonstrates your continued growth as an instructor. During the post-observation meeting, we will assist you with finding resources (including CET programming) that can help you address any areas for improvement that are identified during the mid-semester adjustment. You are also strongly encouraged to set up additional meetings with the CET director or assistant director (depending upon who conducted your review) to follow up on and further discuss these suggestions for improvement.
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