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  Home > Peer Review > Procedures


Peer review procedures: guidelines and recommendations


Step 1: pre-observation conference
Step 2: peer observation
Step 3: post-observation conference


Formative peer observation assists in the improvement of teaching. Summative peer observation evaluates teaching effectiveness and is used for merit, promotion, and/or tenure decisions. Both formative and summative observations can be based on the same observation instruments.

  • 40% of colleges and universities now use peer classroom observation.
  • Observations offer insight regarding the improvement of teaching.

Advantages of Peer Observation

  • New ideas and perspectives about teaching can be gained through colleague(s).
  • Both observer and observed may improve teaching ability.

Step 1: pre-observation conference


The purpose of the pre-observation conference is to review the instructor’s teaching plan, including the lesson goal, objective, strategies/methodology, and assessment. Following are questions that an observer might ask a teacher:

  • What is the main goal of your course?
  • What is the main goal of the course session to be observed?
  • What is the specific objective for the course session to be observed? In other words, what are the learners expected to know and be able to do by the end of the session?
  • What strategies/methods will you use to help learners reach this objective?
  • What assessment methods will you use to show learners have reached this objective?
  • Are there any concerns you would like me to address?

See also CVM’s Pre-Observation Meeting Form. This form will be used and viewed solely by the observer and instructor.  (To view this document, Adobe Acrobat Reader must be installed on your computer).

Step 2: peer observation

Guidelines for observation

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes before class begins. Walking into class late can be construed as inconsiderate.
  • If preferred, the instructor can briefly introduce the observer to the students and give an equally brief explanation as to why the observer is there. Then move on.
  • Observers are not to ask questions or participate in class activities, such behavior can detract from and invalidate observations.
  • Effective observation requires an observation instrument designed to accurately and reliably portray the teacher’s behavior.

Observation instruments

Planning and implementing a systematic approach to observation reduces bias and is more reliable. The three most common instruments used are checklists, rating scales, and open-ended written analyses. A combination of two instruments may prove best. When choosing observation instruments, keep in mind that:

  • Forms and checklists help standardize observations, making the observation more reliable.
  • Viewing a videotape of one's teaching and then completing an observation instrument is a feasible option.
  • The blank sheet observation is not reliable and therefore is not recommended for summative purposes. However, for formative purposes, copious notes about what is taking place during class can be the most useful prompt for discussion.

For sample instruments, see the Class Observation Instruments page. Selected forms will be used by the observer, and viewed solely by the observer and teacher.


Step 3: post-observation conference


  • Schedule this conference, if possible, within two weeks of the observation.
  • Review results from the completed Classroom Observation Instruments.
  • Begin the conference with a positive comment such as: I really enjoyed your class.
  • Provide honest, constructive feedback. For the characteristics of useful feedback, see Guidelines for Useful Feedback.
  • Observers need to complete one of the following forms:

Peer Review of Classroom Teaching
Peer review of Lab Instruction
Peer Review of Clinical Teaching

The Reviewer can choose to share this completed form with others as he or she chooses, but it must be viewed by both the reviewer and director of educational development.

Observable characteristics of effective teachers

  • Begins class promptly and in a well-organized way
  • Treats students with respect and caring
  • Provides the significance/importance of information to be learned
  • Provides clear explanations
  • Holds attention and respect of students, and practices effective classroom management
  • Uses active, hands-on student learning
  • Varies instructional techniques
  • Provides clear, specific expectations for assignments
  • Provides frequent and immediate feedback to students on their performance, including praising students' answers and using probing questions to clarify or elaborate on answers
  • Provides many concrete, real life, practical examples
  • Draws inferences from examples/models and uses analogies
  • Creates a class environment that is comfortable for students and allows students to speak freely
  • Teaches at an appropriately fast pace, stopping to check student understanding and engagement
  • Communicates at a level students understand
  • Exhibits a sense of humor
  • Uses nonverbal behavior, such as gestures, walking around, and eye contact to reinforce comments
  • Presents him or herself as a real person
  • Focuses on the class objective and does not let class get sidetracked
  • Uses feedback from students (and others) to assess and improve teaching
  • Reflects on own teaching to improve it



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