Observation and Enhancing Teaching Practice

Aim of Observation in the Context of Teaching Enhancement

The University believes that the quality of the student learning experience can be enhanced through the provision of a structured developmental context for staff to reflect on their professional practice, share good practice and identify areas for further development for individuals and for departments.

This aim is articulated through a range of enhancement and support activities, designed to provide staff with the opportunity to share good practice, discuss their approaches to teaching with colleagues. The principal value of the scheme is in the discussion of practice which results from the observation of a particular activity, and the recognition that reviewing is as valuable as being reviewed.

Principles

Focus on enhancement

The peer* support activity should focus on reviewing the extent to which practice aligns with the Strategy for Learning, Teaching and Assessment and the Academic Vision.

*The term ‘Peer’ is the broadest definition to include all academic colleagues (including HODs).

Universality

All members of academic and senior staff involved with teaching are expected to participate in peer observation and support activity and be involved in considering their own practice with colleagues as well as in discussing the practice of others. All staff will have access to a range of feedback throughout the year which will contribute to their professional and academic development and facilitate the setting of appropriate targets. This policy is designed to normalise the process of observation as part of professional activity and enhancement and is therefore not simply a peer observation model, but broadened to encompass review activities with all colleagues engaged in teaching.

Transparency

The purpose and structure of the faculty strategy must be clear and supported by appropriate resources and staff development opportunities.

Flexibility

Within the general framework of the policy, faculties may adapt the core requirements to suit their own context and priorities.

Outcomes of observation may be shared with appropriate individuals on a confidential basis.

A faculty report summarising activity in peer observation and support, and the planning outcomes that result, should be discussed termly/annually by the Faculty Academic Quality and Standards Committee and information used by Heads of Department, Associate Deans and Head of CELT to plan staff development.

Links to UK Professional Standards Framework

The policy is designed to support the provision of evidence for recognition claims. (see the PSFchecklist)

Scope
  • All members of academic and senior staff involved in teaching should participate in academic practice enhancement activity at least twice annually (pro rata for staff on fractional contracts) and must be given time in their work allocation for this.
  • Each member of staff should be involved in considering their own practice with a colleague (as a participant) and in discussing the practice of a colleague (as reviewer).
  • Academic staff should engage in at least four different combinations of personnel/activities (from the published policy) over a two-year period, i.e. with a range of colleagues, in a range of situations, and aim to get written feedback on their practice at least twice a year. The Activity Grid indicates the range of activities.
  • If staff are enrolled on the DAPP unit of the PgCert in Teaching and Learning in HE or the PgCert in Academic Practice, the observations included in the unit count as part of the overall engagement with peer observation. The observations can also be used as part of a proposal for recognition under the Professional Standards Framework scheme.
Procedure

Focus

  • Education Committee Paper on Peer Observation - At Education Committee (26/10/16) the attached paper was discussed and agreed – it focuses on the need to ensure that all members of staff are actively engaged with Peer Review and Observation. Essentially the policy and procedures on this page remain, but this clarifies two things: that Heads of Department will organise pairs and triads to ensure there is an opportunity to link peer review to faculty and departmental priorities, and that every member of teaching staff should undertake a minimum of one observation. As always, CELT are happy to discuss implementation and provide support, directly or indirectly for observation.
  • Faculties and departments should discuss and agree activities / topics / aspects of teaching for particular annual focus as part of strategic planning and/or in response to findings from data such as surveys and other forms of student feedback and external examiners’ reports and requirements of PSRBs.
  • For instance, the focus might be on lecturing, feedback planning, use of the VLE, programme review, or student engagement in teaching related activities such as tutorials. This will help to identify good practice and to highlight areas for faculty or departmental staff development.
  • The reviewer should confirm that the review has taken place by returning the general record to the Head of Department. (Record of Observation). This form should be signed by both reviewer and participant.
  • The participant and reviewer will agree which aspects of good practice or development will be shared to inform departmental or faculty development.

Procedure and Discussion

  • The activity must include a discussion between participant and reviewer, before and after the observation event.
  • The type of activity being observed should be agreed in advance between the participant and the reviewer, and the appropriate form used for the type of activity: Proforma 2a for an observation, or Proforma 2b for a review of teaching-related activity.
  • Following the observation event, the participant and reviewer should discuss and agree the good practice and areas for development identified on the Record of Observation.
  • The discussion and the proforma will be shared on a confidential basis with those who have a legitimate interest, for example to inform staff development planning for the faculty, or to follow up on issues raised as part of the observation and discussion.

Co-ordination and Reporting

  • The process of engagement, together with the implications for on-going continuing professional development, will inform discussion at each individual’s PDR.
  • Faculty level responsibility for the embedding, and monitoring engagement with, the policy lies with the Faculty Head of Education in consultation with Heads of Department, who will ensure and report on full participation.
  • Each Faculty Head of Education will provide support, liaise as necessary with CELT and report annually to Faculty Education Committee on the nature, range and impact of faculty engagement with academic practice enhancement.
  • The Faculty Head of Education will keep a composite record to demonstrate the range of activities undertaken in the faculty and liaise with CELT to identify appropriate staff development activities that are required as an outcome of observations.

 

The following video follows a member of staff, Rachel Forsyth from CELT, through the observation procedure, showing the pre-observation briefing, the observation itself and the subsequent discussion between reviewer and participant. Rachel has also made available for download her reflection on the observation and the session plan. Rachel says "this example is just an honest account of what happened in a scheduled session which happened to be the only one my observer and the film producer could manage. I’ve shared it to try to demystify peer observations and to show the benefit to both the observer and to the person being observed. It’s not intended to be a perfect session plan, session, or reflection."

Reflection on Observation

Session Plan

This film features a different observation, of Dr Paul Smith, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry & Environmental Science delivering a lecture. It also shows the pre-observation discussion, part of the taught session, followed by verbal feedback.

Enhancement activities related to observation should align with the principles of the MMU Strategy for Learning, Teaching and Assessment

In this video David Leathlean and Haleh Moravej, both lecturers in Hollings faculty, MMU, talk about their experience of collaborating together and their thoughts on peer observation.