Peer Observation for Teaching and Learning

Purpose of scheme

To promote critical and reflective dialogue about professional practice in relation to learning, teaching and assessment through engaging staff in peer observation activities to enrich academic communities, professional practice and taught programmes. 

What the scheme is not

The scheme is not intended to provide any kind of proxy measure of teaching quality. Its value rests in the reflective and critical dialogue about practice and the ideas, insights and developments that can emerge from this exchange.

The Observation Cycle


The observation cycle is as follows: First the observer meets the observee, to identify points of interest and contextual information. Then they observe the session (or other learning-related activity). Following the observation the two participants meet again to reflect on points of interests and any ideas emerging from the activity. The observer may then adapt any new and useful elements for their own future practice. Any gains from the observation experience should be reported at the annual Professional Development Review meeting.


This scheme is based on the view that critical and reflective dialogue about professional practice is an essential part of university staff development activities to maintain and improve the quality of teaching and assessment, and that peer observation creates an important context for such dialogue. The peer observation scheme is designed to promote collegiality, critically reflective conversations, practice innovation and sharing of ideas about teaching and assessment. The scheme emphasises the skills of being an effective observer, able to recognise and respond to a diversity of teaching approaches, and to learn from observing others. It encourages participants to link observation to programme and unit action plans. The university expects that every member of staff involved in teaching and supporting students will engage with the scheme.

Peer observation and PDR

As part of the scheme, participants should report back to their PDR reviewer that they have engaged in peer observation. Discussion about teaching should focus on what has been learned from observing others and how the member of staff sees their own teaching in the context of the programme action plan produced during the Education Annual Review process, or a service action plan in the case of staff who are supporting learning outside the programme context. Please note: an observer should not discuss the personal particulars of who or what was observed; this information remains confidential between the colleagues involved in the peer observation.

The PDR discussion may explore how observation of teaching  fits into the member of staff’s career planning; what they can offer to support less experienced colleagues; and any additional training or further observation opportunities they might seek.

Principles of the scheme

  1. Universality
    All members of academic and senior staff involved with teaching and supporting learning are expected to participate in peer observation activity at least twice annually (pro rata for staff on fractional or hourly paid contracts) and must be given time in their work allocation for this.  
  2. Flexibility
    Within the general framework of the scheme, faculties, departments, and programme teams are encouraged to adapt the scheme to reflect their own context and action plans. 
  3. Transparency
    The implementation of the scheme at departmental level must be clear and supported by appropriate resources and staff development opportunities.  
  4. Reporting and Confidentiality
    Individuals: Staff are expected to report participation in peer observation, but feedback and discussions between participants remain confidential unless both participants agree to share outcomes or ideas.
    Teams: Programme and service teams are asked to set aims for peer observation activity for the next year and to consider generic learning from peer observation at least once per year, an analysis of which can then be reported in summary at the Education Annual Review.
  5. Links to UK Professional Standards Framework and Academic Career Pathway: 
    Discussions about peer observation should support the provision of individual evidence for recognition claims, including HEA fellowships, where appropriate.

Roles and Responsibilities

Head of Department and SMT
  • Fostering a culture of trust and collegiality
  • Setting up, resourcing and participating in the scheme
  • Providing opportunities to share general outcomes from the scheme
Programme Leaders
  • Establishing contexts and focus for observation activity with SMT
  • Applying general outcomes from the scheme to enhance programmes
  • Engaging in reflective and critical discussions about teaching
  • Maintaining the collegiality and confidentiality of the scheme
  • Sharing general outcomes from observation to enhance practice/programmes
  • Discussing individual observation experiences as part of PDR
  • Supporting observation activities in the university
  • Enriching academic communities
  • Practice and programmes
  • Valuing diversity