Here are some qualities of an effective peer classroom observation designed to share teaching ideas and improve teaching (i.e., formative evaluation):
- The program or partnership is built on the premise of improvement and not considered remedial.
- The observed teacher and the coach trust and respect each other.
- Classroom visits are reciprocal, that is, a faculty member should be, in turn, observer and observed.
- Observations occur by invitation only; there are no surprise visits.
- It is most helpful if each member of the partnership can be observed more than once.
- The observed teacher focuses the observation and consultation on aspects of the course that interest him/her.
- Partners determine in advance how the observer will look for the information or perspectives the teacher desires.
- Lines of communication between the teacher and coach are open; feedback is both candid and tactful.
- A balance between praise and constructive criticism guides the feedback process.
- Results are kept strictly confidential and apart from any summative evaluation or evaluation processes used to make promotion and tenure decisions or decisions about salaries.
Adapted from the summary of L. Keig and M. Waggoner (1994), Collaborative peer review: The role of faculty in improving college teaching. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, No. 2. Washington, DC: The George Washington Univ., Graduate School of Education and Human Development, p. 95 presented in Nancy Van Note Chism (1999), Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (Bolton, MA: Anker), p. 86.