Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Characteristics of a good observer



A good observer:

  • Is supportive, not judgmental.
  • Negotiates all aspects of their role with the reviewee.
  • Arrives early to the teaching session.
  • Has a clear focus when they are observing.
  • Is unobtrusive in the classroom situation and does not participate in any way unless asked to do so.
  • Gives their feedback as soon as possible after the teaching session.
  • Gives clear, unambiguous feedback which is based on evidence.
  • Gives objective feedback, not advice.
  • Acknowledges any benefit they have gained from the observation.
  • Maintains confidentiality on all aspects of the observation process.

There are several options for choosing an observer.

Option 1Focus on the teaching content

If you are interested in aspects of your teaching that are centred around your discipline, then the choice of observer(s) will be from your school. For example, aspects of teaching may be the most effective method to facilitate a workshop, or deliver a lecture on a specific topic.

The observer must be able to comment on the content of your teaching session from an expert point of view. In this case, there are several choices to be made:

  • Can the process be a mutually beneficial one where two people can work together to observe and be observed? The relative status of the two people is not important if a situation of trust and respect exists between them and they feel comfortable working with one another.
  • Is there a small group that can be formed, so that each person is observed? This model allows for group discussions of a general nature and may work if all the participants are working together in a course or unit. It is vital however, that personal comments are avoided in any group discussion.
  • Is there a trio that can work together to observe one member of the group in pairs? This option is also useful for colleagues who work closely together in a discipline.

Option 2Focus on content from a different discipline

If you are interested in how the content of your teaching is viewed from the perspective of a different discipline - for example, the interaction between aspects of Physics and Anatomy - you might prefer to choose an observer from the other discipline.

In this case, it is likely that there will be a single observation which may only be one-way. It is also likely that the observer and the observed will be familiar with each others work.

Option 3Focus on the teaching process

If you are interested in developing your teaching skills, then you may consider choosing an observer who is able to focus on teaching, rather than the content of your session.

For example, this could be the organisation of a small-group session, student management techniques, questioning skills, or the explanation of difficult concepts. Once again, there are decisions to be made:

  • Is there a person within your school or the faculty who is known to possess these skills and who may be willing to observe and possibly be observed? If so, you should approach this person and discuss the peer observation process.
  • Is this a situation where an education expert would be most appropriate? One option is to ask someone involved in the discipline of Education to provide formative feedback. The Facultys Education Centre has several staff who have been involved in teacher education.

Contact the Education Centre to arrange contact with an appropriate member of staff.