Teaching Partners Program
This page provides information about the program and tells you how to join the Teaching Partners group.
The Teaching Partners Program is designed to:
- Encourage the development and exchange of successful and novel teaching practices at UWF.
- Fulfill UWF’s strategic priority to foster student learning and development to include the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that optimize students' prospects for personal and professional success.
- Facilitate peer reviews of teaching.
- Supplement departmental mentoring programs.
- Provide a mechanism for creating a teaching mentor component for faculty who wish to develop a mutual mentoring team.
Faculty who are interested in participating should attend the Teaching Partners Peer Observation Workshop, held every September, (see CUTLA workshop calendar for date, time and location) to learn about the program and how to do a class observation, meet current and former participants and identify a teaching partner.
For more information about connecting with a Teaching Partner, please call or email Gabby Bustamante at 473-7435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Find a Good Teaching Partner
Identify your needs and questions about teaching. If your questions focus on the content of your discipline, (Are my courses appropriately challenging? Is the pace of the class appropriate for students at this level?) then you should seek a teaching mentor from your discipline.
However, if you want to discuss teaching strategies and issues of classroom management, a good mentor might be found in any discipline. A teaching mentor from a discipline other than your own can be an effective Teaching Partner because out-of-discipline faculty must focus on issues such as instructional strategies and establishing classroom rapport rather than content. An out-of-field mentor can more easily provide you with feedback about whether your explanations of content are understandable to a non-expert in the discipline.
Seek a Teaching Partner with experience in the types of teaching strategies you want to discuss: engaging students in an online course, facilitating discussion in small classes, engaging students in large classes, managing projects in laboratory classes, or contrasts between undergraduate and graduate teaching.
Classroom Observation Process
The program will run through the fall and spring semesters. At the beginning of the fall semester, each participant will identify another faculty member as a peer mentor based on shared teaching interests and goals. During the semester, faculty partners will visit each other’s face-to-face or online classes to learn about and review their teaching practices. Faculty should visit each other’s classes at least once, but many Teaching Partners schedule additional visits. Effective classroom observations generally follow the following three-step process. The Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology at The University of British Columbia has produced a series of five short videos (each less than 5 minutes), Formative Peer Review of Teaching. Each video describes a component of the Peer Observation Process:
- Pre-Visit Meeting
Setting up a meeting prior to the classroom visit is critical to the success of the observation process. The purpose of this meeting is for the observer to get familiar with the class, students, teacher’s goals, context, and expectations for the classroom visit. The teaching partners also determine the logistics (e.g., where will the observer sit, will the observer be introduced, etc.) for the classroom visit. The observer may complete the Pre-Observation Discussion Form, which is available from the Teaching Partners web site, during this meeting. In addition, the observer and instructor should agree upon the most appropriate feedback and evaluation instruments for their classroom visits, or adapt one of the forms to suit their needs. Several forms are provided on the web site, including open-ended feedback and scaled evaluation forms.Video 1: Reviewer's First Steps
- Discusses how to establish rapport for a peer observation and manage the process.
Video 2: How to Prepare for a Pre-Observation Meeting
- Discusses how to establish expectations for the observations process, determine which materials should be reviewed in advance of the observation, and schedule the pre-observation meeting.
Video 3: The Pre-Observation Meeting
- Discusses how to establish trust and rapport. Logistical questions related to the observation to be resolved at this meeting.
- Classroom visit
The classroom visit should occur as planned between the observer and teacher, and the logistics for the visit should be determined in advance. The visit will depend on the nature of the class, e.g., face-to-face class, lab, online class, etc. For online classes, the observer may visit one of the instructor’s synchronous sessions (e.g., sessions conducted using Elluminate). The observer may complete one of the Classroom Observation Forms available on the Teaching Partners web site, to collect feedback during the visit. The agreed upon instruments should be used for the classroom observation.Video 4: The Classroom Observation
- Discusses guidelines and advice for an effective classroom observation visit.
- Follow-up meeting
This meeting should be scheduled within a week of the classroom visit, and the observer may complete a Classroom Observation Report prior to this meeting. Several formats for this report are available on the web site. Faculty should select the format that is most appropriate for their visit. As a formative evaluation of teaching, the follow-up discussion between the teaching partners should provide reflective insights about the classroom observation. The meeting provides an opportunity for partners to discuss the observer’s feedback, instructor’s comments, and impact on student learning. Ideally, feedback should focus on positive teaching achievements, as well as identify areas for reflection or further development. Partners can share what they learned from the process, how the teaching practices can be improved, and, if applicable, how they can be adapted for use by the observer.Video 5: The Post-Observation Meeting
- Discusses guidelines for scheduling and structuring the post-observation meeting, including advice about how to give meaningful feedback.
If the classroom visits for both teaching partners are scheduled close enough together, one pre-visit and one follow-up meeting may be used to discuss both visits.
All feedback related to individual peer observations and classroom visits will remain confidential between the teaching partners.
Guidelines for Peer Classroom Observations
Types of Peer Review
Peer reviews of teaching can be used for both formative and summative evaluations. Teaching partners should share their feedback to improve teaching practices (formative evaluation) . If requested by a partner, observers can provide an evaluation of teaching for use in performance evaluations (summative evaluation).
Formative evaluation of teaching focuses on activities that provide faculty with information that they can use to improve their teaching. The information is intended for their personal use, and is thus private and confidential. The feedback should be sufficiently detailed to help teachers gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of their teaching. Formative peer evaluations are informal and can include classroom observations or review of course materials. Such evaluations can help faculty improve their teaching skills and assess their success with new teaching approaches.
Summative evaluation of teaching focuses on collecting information needed to make performance decisions about one’s teaching. Consequently, the information included is often more general and comparative in nature than the data used for formative evaluation. It may include teaching ratings or rankings, or comparative information which enables the reviewer to determine the quality of the teaching with respect to the performance of other peers. A single classroom observation is not sufficient for a summative evaluation of teaching. Summative evaluations should include all peer evaluations of teaching and should include a critical review of course materials, student course evaluations, and other data.
The following guidelines will help improve the usefulness and quality of the peer review process:
1. Teaching partners should discuss and agree in advance on the process and purpose of the peer review, as well as the instruments that will be used for the review.
2. The process from start to end should be an active collaboration between the teaching partners.
3. Good peer reviews involve being honest and constructive. The observations should be conducted in a collegial and private manner; instructors should not feel anxious about feedback that they are less than excellent. The feedback should focus on improvement.
4. Confidentiality in a formative review must be maintained, and trust must be established between the two partners.
5. Peer review should focus on specific teaching practices or materials (e.g., teaching strategy, organization of lecture, interaction with students, communication of content, etc).
6. Pre-observation information is essential to provide context about the class, teacher, and students. It may be best to obtain this information in a face-to-face meeting.
7. A variety of approaches and instruments may be used to focus the classroom observation. Teaching partners should identify the process and instruments that are most appropriate for the context of their visits in advance. A variety of instruments and resources are available on the Teaching Partners web site.
8. The observer should be as unobtrusive as possible during the class visit. The instructor may introduce the observer at the start of class if necessary, but the observer should avoid making comments or engaging in any behavior that may impact the students’ behavior.
9. Post-visit feedback using an appropriate form or report should be provided in a timely manner, preferably in the form of a face-to-face meeting.
10. Feedback should be based on reasoned opinions, not personal biases or judgments. A good peer review requires reflection.
11. Build on strengths. It is easy to determine what needs work. Be sure to identify what went well.
12. The time invested in peer review can pay off through contributions to teaching development and improvement, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and new collaborations with colleagues.
13. A single classroom observation is not sufficient for a summative evaluation of teaching.
14. In their roles as reviewers, both teaching partners can benefit from the peer review process. Ideas to improve or adapt their own teaching are likely to develop from observing as well as from being observed.
Forms for Completing Classroom Observations and Observation Reports
Pre-Observation Review of Syllabus and Course Materials
Peer observations provide more helpful feedback if the observer prepares for the observation by understanding the course context. Review the syllabus and discuss the course with the instructor. Ask questions to determine what questions the instructor has about his or her teaching that your observation will address.
The Faculty Innovation Center at the University of Texas at Austin describes a protocol for formative peer observation of teaching. This protocol includes a pre-observation meeting and review of course materials (syllabus, assignment handouts).
Observers might supplement this rubric with the CUTLA self-evaluation rubric: Rubric for Self-Evaluation of a Syllabus (PDF)
Observers might want to use some of the questions suggested for a pre-observation discussion to help frame the observation.
Link for University of Texas - Pre-Observation Discussion Questions (PDF)
Classroom Observation Forms
Observation Report Forms
Post-Observation Reflective Summary
A reflective summary enables instructors to describe their participation in Teaching Partners and document the impact of this professional development activity on their teaching. Faculty frequently include documentation of their participation in Teaching Partners in materials they submit for annual evaluation, tenure, and promotion portfolios. The Faculty Innovation Center at UT-Austin offers a template with guiding questions for a reflective summary.
Link for University of Texas - Reflective Summary: Peer Observation (PDF)
Updated: 05/15/2018 adm