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Peer Review of Teaching

Peer review of teaching is a widely accepted model used to both develop the teaching skills of the instructor and to make personnel decisions. Formative evaluation of teaching is used to provide instructors with concrete information they can employ to improve their classroom teaching skills. Generally, it is beneficial for new teachers, or experienced teachers who may be teaching a new course or trying a new teaching method. The observations of their peers can assist them in ascertaining their effectiveness and to identify areas of improvement. Generally, formative evaluation is informal and the information gathered is used only by the instructor being observed.

In contrast, summative evaluation is frequently used by department chairs or administrators who have to make decisions about retention of new faculty members or the promotional opportunities of mid-career faculty. This type of observation is more formal in nature, and often requires the observer to take note of specific behaviors. The written report of this type of observation frequently becomes part of the permanent file of the faculty, and its content must address the needs of the program and institution.

Fontbonne University promotes the use of both of these types of peer review. Summative reviews are required for all promotion and tenure decisions. Requirements for these reviews are outlined in the Faculty Manual. [insert link here] Formative reviews are also strongly encouraged. New (and not-so-new) are encouraged to request formative reviews for the following reasons:

  • Requesting a formative review from your chairperson can allow you to find out if your teaching methods support the goals of the department
  • Requesting a formative review from a peer in your department can allow you to find out if your content is aligned with the goals of the program area
  • Requesting a formative review from a peer outside of your department can allow you to find out if your teaching style supports the goals of the institution
  • Requesting a formative review from a staff member of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning can allow you to find out if there are other technological or methodological considerations that would improve your teaching
To learn more about peer review of teaching, please contact the Center.

Additional information is available through these Internet sites:

Recommended Book from the Center:

Chism, Nancy van Note. (2007). Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker. Chism writes that “peer review of teaching in informed colleague judgment about faculty teacing for either fostering improvements or making personnel decisions.” She further states that classroom observation is only one method of peer review, and that it doesn’t include many of the other activities of faculty members that are crucial to an informed judgment. Her book includes a discussion of the rationale of peer review systems, suggestions for setting up and maintaining a peer review system, and guidelines for what the goals of such a system should be. Well organized with a substantial number of examples.