Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Models of observation


There are a range of observation models in use.

These vary from the top-down model, which may involve some form of accreditation or formal assessment, to the true peer review process where formative feedback is provided by a trusted colleague.

The model favoured by this Faculty is one where the teacher selects an observer and invites them to give formative feedback on a teaching session. This model is favoured because:

  • Control of the observation process is maintained by the teacher being observed.
  • The teacher will decide on the objectives and will therefore define the focus of the observation.
  • The teacher and the observer will work in collaboration to determine the particular aspects of teaching which will serve as a focus of the observation.
  • Key points about peer observation of teaching guide the process.
  • Key stages in the process facilitate implementation.

Choosing an observer provides a guide to making this choice.


Key points about peer observation of teaching

  • It is a formative process.
  • It should be based on evidence.
  • Participants should be clear about the focus of the review and the type of data collection that will deliver the best evidence to support focussed reflection.
  • SPOT results may be useful in determining a focus for observation.
  • Advice should only be offered if requested, with all other comments deriving from the data. This is not an exercise in cloning or justification of opinion or behaviours but rather facilitating the mutual unpacking of assumptions.
  • This is a reviewee-driven process. The reviewer is supporting not assessing.
  • Participants should be aware of their own power and how this may impact on the dialogue.
  • All staff can be effective reviewers and in turn, learn and benefit from the process.
  • Perceptions of reflective practice and issues of confidentiality should be discussed from the very beginning of the process.
  • It is anticipated that every teacher will organise for their teaching to be observed once during the year.
  • The ultimate objective of the process is to refine teaching practice and enhance student learning.
  • Outcomes of the peer review process may be used in a teaching portfolio.

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Key stages of peer observation of teaching

  1. Consider aspects of your teaching that you would like feedback on. These aspects may be related to your own perceptions of your teaching, or they may have arisen as a result of feedback from another source, such as the SPOT tests.
  2. Identify a focus for the observation. This process may be assisted by reading the sections of this website on characteristics of good teachers or consulting the POT checklists. Document your objectives for the observation.
  3. Read the section on choosing an observer to determine the type of person you need as an observer in order to fulfil your own objectives. Identify a suitable potential observer.
  4. Contact and negotiate with the person or the group of people you have selected. Assess their willingness and availability to participate.
  5. Collaborate with the observer(s) on the selection of appropriate items for observation (POT checklist items). Identify a suitable time for the observation and for the follow-up meeting.
  6. Write your personal checklist and send it to the observer(s).
  7. Conduct the session. It is advisable to let your students know what is happening, especially if it is a small group. Give them as much information as you feel comfortable with. If it is a large lecture group, you may decide to simply comment on the presence of the observer.
  8. Reflect on your teaching after the session, based on the items on your checklist.
  9. Meet with the observer(s) for feedback. This may be the most difficult part of the process for the observer and the teacher. Giving or receiving feedback with a peer can create a sensitive situation. Awareness of this by both parties is a good way to overcome any potential problems. Focus on your original objectives and be receptive to evidence-based feedback.
  10. Incorporate the feedback you receive in a way that you feel is appropriate.

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Models of peer observation of teaching

Excerpt from Twelve Tips for Peer Observation of Teaching (Siddiqui, Jonas-Dwyer and Carr, 2007).


There are several models of peer observation. These are based on either the number of observers i.e. pair observation, trio, or larger groups; or on the purpose of the observation (Table 1). According to Gosling Peers can be colleagues from the same department, either of a similar status or there can be differentials of status, or the colleagues can be from another department or from a central educational development unit (2002).

Based on the purpose of peer observation three models have emerged an evaluation model, developmental model and peer review model (Gosling 2002) In the evaluation model it is usual for a senior faculty member to observe others, while in the development model the observer(s) are educational developers/experts and teaching practitioners. The essence of the peer review model however, lies in teachers observing each other often in a reciprocal process. They are not being judged by any externally set criteria instead it is focussed around a set of mutually agreed issues (Ewens & Orr 2002). One could therefore argue whether evaluation and development models are actually peer models because of existing power relationships in the earlier two models.

Table 1: Goslings (2002) models for peer observation of teaching

Evaluation model

Identify underperformance, confirm probation.

Appraisal, promotion, quality assurance, assessment.

Development model

Demonstrate competency, improve teaching competencies; assessment quality enhancement and professional development.


Peer review model

Engagement in discussion about teaching; self and mutual reflection on good practice amongst academic staff.

GOSLING, D., (2002) Models of Peer Observation of Teaching, Learning and Teaching Support Network.

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