Conducting Effective Classroom Observations
Successful peer review programs which include classroom visits share a number of features. These programs work best when faculty members:
can help you focus on those aspects of your teaching that influence its effectiveness (Davis, 1993).
How can you analyze your classroom interactions with students? As you watch the tape, try the technique of stopping every five seconds and putting a check in the following columns: teacher talk, student talk, silence. Or look at your lecture in terms of organization and preparation: Did I give the purpose of the session? Emphasize or restate the most important ideas? Make smooth transitions from one topic to another? Summarize the main points? Include neither too much nor too little material in a class period? Seem at ease with the material? Begin and end class promptly?
Peer review of one's research results is standard practice in all fields of science, but only recently has this become a mechanism for advancing one's teaching knowledge and skills. The American Association for Higher Education has shown leadership in this area through its "Peer Review of Teaching" project (Hutchings, 1996). Although conceived as an effort to improve the quality of evidence about teaching in faculty tenure and promotion decisions, the project puts greater emphasis on faculty collaboration to improve teaching throughout their careers. Reciprocal classroom visits, mentoring programs for new faculty, team teaching, and departmental seminars about teaching and learning are but a few of the ways that faculty members work with colleagues to improve undergraduate education.
The most common way to evaluate a course and a faculty member's teaching is to use a student rating form at the end of the term. These forms often are used by faculty committees and administrators to make personnel