Peer Observation & evaluation

FND unit 7 task 4 | Jonathan Turner | September 26th, 2003

I am completely bereft of ideas for this task. I have to say that as well as not being able to get the ball rolling the matrix seems a somewhat false paradigm, in that it presumes all these stages. Most of the places I have worked (private or public) bear little or no resemblance to this matrix. Am I missing the point?

An example in 'Teachers' it says under formative evaluation 'peer evaluation'. When is the last time anybody observed a colleague? I do some teacher training and I suggested one of my trainees observing a colleague and was told where to get off. Maybe I am being overly cynical or just missing the point.

Jonathan Turner
Equatorial Guinea (West Africa)

Re: FND unit 7 task 4 | Jerry Talandis Jr. | September 27th, 2003

Hi Jonathan,

This is Jerry, from Japan. Interesting situation you're in regarding peer evaluation.

At my job with the Toyama College of Foreign Languages (a two year vocational school specializing on languages, mostly English), we have just gotten a new principal who is insisting all the teachers visit each other's classes. He wants us to exchange feedback and help break down the "fiefdom" syndrome that we have here (each teacher as the king/queen of their own territory). When he made this policy last year,

I was so excited! Finally, we could start communicating more and start learning from each other.

Guess how many classes I visited? ZERO!

I kept meaning to do it but never seemed to make time. One of my colleagues visited my class, but we never made time to talk about it. I was shocked, actually. Intellectually I'm all for observing colleague's

classes (and vice versa), but in actuality, I found myself feeling vulnerable. I think that was the main reason for my procrastination.

I suggested one of my trainees observing a colleague and was told where to get off.

In your situation, it seems the reluctance to observe/be observed is not such a subtle thing! I can understand why, but what do you think? Despite the resistance, do you think peer evaluation is an ideal still worth pursuing in your context? I do. We can't let our insecurities get in the way of our development. Then again, you have to choose your battles. Is that one you want to fight?

Anyway, most other teachers at our school had similar responses, so now our number 1 is making the rounds, sitting in on all his teachers' classes! Great Pinkie. He knows a good thing when he sees it and won't let it go. This gives me energy to get off my duff.

Oh, and I don't think you "missed the point" of the task; you just had your situation clarified with respect to an ideal.


Re: FND module unit 7 task 4 | Raymond Sheehan | September 27th, 2003

Hi Jonathan,

You asked:

When is the last time anybody observed a colleague? I do some teacher training and I suggested one of my trainees observing a colleague and was told where to get off.

I'm working on my dissertation at the moment, focusing on how both supervisors and peers give feedback on observed classes. I have recorded and transcribed both types of feedback and am looking at the transcripts mainly from the angle of interaction among peers and supervisor-peers.

I think the success of peer observation depends on the working climate teachers build in their own environment, and successful peer observation has a lot to do with trust and mutual respect. The fact that a colleague or colleagues give you a point-blank refusal and fail to see the value of peer observation doesn't reflect so much on 'peer observation' as a valuable thing to do but raises good questions (worthy of action research!) about relations among colleagues, their (not unusual) feelings of vulnerability about being observed, the ways that they have devised to measure the success of their teaching. Generally I choose peers whose opinions I value highly even when their teaching views and methods are quite different from my own. Peer observation also works well when it's done on an exchange basis, with the view that the observer can get as least as much as the observed teacher out of the event.

As regards the formative/summative goals of observation, I am beginning to conclude that the distinctions are too neat to be useful. Peer observations can be used by the bosses for summative purposes, helping them to get a more complete picture of the teachers' performance. Conversely, many ostensibly summative observations can have a lot of formative/developmental value for the teacher.

All the best with the rest of the module!


Re: Peer Obs | Maria Leedham | September 28th, 2003

Hi Raymond, Jerry, Jonathan and others,

I work at Oxford Brookes in the UK and the peer obs scheme has been running here for a few years now. One term each year we're all asked to get into threes (triads) and arrange to each watch the other two people's lessons ie every does two hours of observation. Before and after each hour of obs the observer and observee should get together for maybe 15 minutes beforehand to discuss how this lesson fits in with the course and maybe give the observer specific things to focus on, then around 30 minutes afterwards to discuss.   All discussion is done in a constructive manner of course! And knowing your peer will both observe you and be observed helps. Being observed separately by two people is good as it gives some perspective - if two people say you handle something well you can accept it with more confidence than just a one-off.

I think the scheme has worked. At the beginning (4 years ago I think) I went to a few seminars on how to give feedback in an empathetic manner, lots of modals, positive before neg., non-judgmental, etc.   Perhaps where it's a little difficult to implement is for hourly-paid lecturers at Brookes. There are a lot of us and if you work in other places too then it's difficult to make the time to observe and do feedback. The whole thing should take around 6 hours - two per each peer you observe and two for discussion when you're being observed. So there's probably some level of teaching hours at which you feel you want to get involved. Involvement isn't compulsory, but is strongly pushed! The triads are supposed to identify themselves to a peer obs leader, and offer suggestions for feedback / managing the scheme. But there's no one actually forcing you to be involved.

Maria Leedham
Oxford, UK

Thanks | Jonathan Turner | September 29th, 2003

Thanks to everyone who responded first to my appeal for how to go about using this mailing list and second for the query concerning Unit 7 Task 4 (the program Matrix). Interestingly people picked up on the comment I made about classroom observations and I got some interesting feedback.

Having said that the thing I think is most interesting is that that had nothing to do with my actual query! I was actually concerned about how to go about tackling the task rather than how to conduct classroom observations. My initial response was not respond but then I thought better of it, so here are my thoughts on what happened.

1. I didn't make my question clear and will have to take more care about formulating queries.

2. People picked up on a detail they were interested in rather than actually looking at the query (don't frown I'm not trying to patronize)

3. People wanted to have a dialogue but my query was not easy to form an opinion on, rather it was concerned with more 'technical matters'. This means I perhaps misinterpreted the point of the discussion group.

4. This is the nature of these kinds of discourse mediums and in fact reflect 'live dialogue' in that they don't go in 'straight lines'

Anyway I just thought people making an effort warranted that I do the same. So thanks and the group is definitely making me feel less isolated (which when you are on an island off the the coast of Cameroon is pretty important)

Jonathan Turner
Equatorial Guinea

Re: peer evaluation | James Hobbs | September 30th, 2003

Hi Jonathan,

Nice to see a lot of new faces (or at least names) on the list.

Interestingly people picked up on the comment I made about classroom observations and I got some interesting feedback. Having said that the thing I think is most interesting is that that had nothing to do with my actual query!

Interesting. Yes, your post was about the task, but what's important is the way you made your point about peer observation. Although it was just an off the cuff remark, "When is the last time anybody observed a colleague?" is nevertheless a question, and a fairly provocative one at that, so I'm not at all surprised that most people zoomed in on that. I certainly did. If you'd written something like "In my experience peer observation rarely takes place" then I doubt that thread would have gathered much momentum, and you might have got the sort of replies you'd been hoping for. Little episodes like this are a reminder that this list can be an excellent source of data for potential TDA or IIC assignments.

As for task 7.4 I'm afraid that was while ago and I can't remember much about it, so I can't help. In fact I just posted my DISS about an hour ago! So I'll sign off the list by wishing you and all the other newcomers all the best for the course. I started out in January 2000 with all kinds of doubts about my own ability, my commitment, making enough time, accessing books and articles, etc. But they all proved unfounded and the MSc has been a thoroughly enjoyable, stimulating, and rewarding experience. I'm sure you'll all think so, too. It's an excellent program; you have made a wise choice.


James Hobbs


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