Faculty Development

Faculty Development

WMU Peer Teaching Observation Program


Peer Observation Guidelines

At the heart of peer observation is the ability for an instructor's peer to help them become aware of what they are and are not doing. Secondly, it is a tool for an instructor to gain advice and learn about techniques that can improve their performance in the classroom. Finally, it is a way for instructors to collaboratively set goals for themselves.

The Peer Teaching Observation cycle consists of four parts:

    1. Pre-Observation Meeting: the instructor and the observer determine what to target during the observation.
    2. Observation: the observer sits in on a class and observes the instructor.
    3. Post-Observation Meeting: the instructor and the observer discuss the events of the class, and ideas for the future.
    4. Follow-Up Meeting: the OFD offers programs or services that help the instructor implement those ideas.

Pre-Observation Meeting

The goal of the pre-observation meeting is for the instructor and the observer to define how the instructor can benefit from an observation. The observer and the instructor will agree on a definition of success that the instructor hopes to achieve. Because of the many philosophies about the best way to teach a class, these observations will avoid analyzing the instructor's goals and methods unless that is what they specifically request.

The instructor and the observer will agree to target specific areas to focus on, as well as specific areas to avoid. By laying this out before hand, it helps the observer avoid focusing on giving advice that the instructor is already aware of, and instead targets specific areas in which the instructor wishes to improve.

At the completion of this stage, the observer should:

  • Clearly agree with the instructor on the goals and methods of the observation (putting them in writing helps).
  • Obtain copies of all materials used in class (slides, assessments, readings, etc).
  • Verify the time and location of the classroom.


The goal of the observation is to create a clear description of the behaviors, techniques, and skills used by the instructor in the classroom.

When arriving at the classroom, it is best to arrive early and introduce yourself to the students.

It is the duty of the observer to diligently record all useful information that contributes to achieving the goals of the observation. There are several tools the observer can use:

  • Notes. Notes should be observations, not interpretations. They should describe specific actions in context.
  • Observation Guides. In a formative observation and review, the only criteria for an observation guide is that it help the participants achieve the desired outcomes. The OFD has several generic observation guides. You may use any of these forms, or tailor them specifically for the observation.
  • Student Responses. Students can be interviewed at the end of the class. It is best to prepare targeted questions / questionnaires to ensure that you collect information that contributes to the goals of the observation.
  • Audio and Video Recording. The office of Media Services offers video recording. This is an excellent way to create an exact record of what happened in the class. If you record video, please review the Photographic Release Guidelines (.docx)

Once the observation has been completed, the observer should write a summary of the observations, a short list of topics to discuss, and several suggested things to try doing differently. This summary can be given to the instructor as a report, or it can be used by the observer as notes to guide the conversation forward. This report is confidential and should not be given to anyone besides the instructor.

Post-Observation Meeting

The goal of this second meeting is to create an action plan that lists new techniques, behaviors, or methods that the instructor could try implementing in their classroom. This is a formative, creative activity. As such, avoid telling the instructor the "right way" to teach their class. Don't list all the things they did right and wrong. Instead, interact with them to investigate their motivations, expectations, and skills.

In other words, always ask "What's the number one most useful thing this instructor could take away from this interaction?" The answer is not "Stop doing X, Y, and Z."

This is the recommended process for the post-observation meeting:

  • First, review the goals of the observation. What were you going to pay particular attention to? What were you going to ignore?
  • Second, discuss how the instructor thought they did with regards to those areas.
  • Third, discuss examples of what you observed. Use descriptive terms to specify observations and not interpretations of their actions. Was their action/technique intentional? Representative? Helpful to the class?
  • Fourth, offer suggestions and discuss different things to try doing. (Review the UMN Alternative Tyes of Feedback as a good resource)
  • Fifth, work together to create an Action Plan listing things to try doing. Remember, this action plan is formative, not evaluative. It should describe new behaviors and techniques that could help the instructor in the classroom.

Once the meeting is over, it is the observer's responsibility to create a quick report for the OFD. This report will include only the following information:

  • Date and length of the pre-observation meeting, the observation, and the post-observation meeting.
  • Name, department, and contact information for the instructor observed.
  • List of assessment technology used (e.g. video, specific observation guides, etc.).
  • The action plan that was created. The OFD will keep this action plan confidential, and it will be used to help offer follow-up assistance to the instructor.

At this stage, the responsibilities of the peer observer end.

Follow-Up Meeting

The follow-up meeting is an essential component to this process. The goals are three-old: to assist the instructor in completing the action plan, to collect success stories that can be used to increase interest in this program, and to assess the observation process itself and find ways to improve it.

Peer Observation Resources


Program Description

Program presentation

Photographic/Video Release Guidelines (.docx)

UMN Alternative Types of Feedback (.doc)


POET - Peer Observation and Assessment Tool (.doc)

Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) (.pdf)

UMN Faculty Observation Scale (.doc)

UMN Made-To-Order Form for Instructional Observation (.doc)

WASC Focus on Learning - Peer Visit Form (.doc)


Harris-Barnett - Peer Observation and Feedback Guidelines (.pdf) (Includes Instructional Observation Forms 1 and 2)

Skoog - Improving College Teaching through Peer Observation (.pdf)

Trujillo - Development of a Peer Teaching-Assessment Program and a Peer Observation and Evaluation Tool (.pdf)









Office of Faculty Development
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5268 USA
(269) 387-0732