Cromwell Teaching PODs

Classroom with blackboard

Peer Observation and Development 

What is Peer Observation? Peer observation is a professional development strategy in which instructors, typically in groups of 2 – 4 colleagues, provide and receive formative feedback about teaching based upon classroom observations and productive conversations about pedagogical goals and strategies, before and after visiting the classroom. Peer observation plays a role in the tenure and promotion review process—where, in addition to a department chair, colleagues writing letters about a candidate would typically engage in peer observation. It is also refreshing and enlightening to learn from our colleagues and see what they are doing and experiencing as teachers. 

What would CTL provide? We will help interested colleagues establish a Teaching POD of 2-4 members. PODs of 2-3 would be ideal for a shorter time-frame of one semester; PODs of 4 might require more than one semester to accommodate the larger number of class visits. We will also provide some initial guidance and best practice on peer evaluation and observation, including the peer observation forms recommended for feedback. We will also pay for lunch in Hodson for pre- and post-observation discussions. 

What would participation in a Cromwell Teaching POD entail? Participants in the POD might follow this path—though participants are free to organize in ways that best suit the needs and schedules of the group members. 

  • Some initial reading/training focused on peer observation feedback and best practice. See below for links to various resources on formative feedback and classroom observation templates. We recommend (though do not require) using the Peer Observation form developed by a Task Force that improved the teaching evaluation process at Washington College.
  • Pre-observation discussion: context for course, what instructors want to develop, specific goals/materials for a class that will be visited Schedule at least one visit—more if feasible and/or if POD members want to address more than one course. 
  • Post-observation discussion. Share feedback, generate ideas about ongoing developments in the course, reflections on the observation process. The pre- and post- observation discussions could take place over lunch in Hodson paid for by Cromwell CTL (give us the dates and we’ll sign your group up for lunch). 
  • Feedback to Cromwell CTL: We would love to receive your suggestions for any refinements of the peer observation form or the process? Suggestions for strengthening this program. Things you have learned about your classroom and your pedagogy that you will further enhance/develop/revise. This would be presented briefly in a feedback form—and for those willing to share, we’d also encourage sharing feedback on a blog post to The Catalyst or at a future CTL session.  
  • Participants could also list on their annual review materials and/or CV their participation in a “Cromwell Teaching POD.” 
  • Participation in a Teaching POD could also provide brainstorming and preparation for a future application for a Cromwell Fellowship or Cromwell Award for Innovation in Teaching. 

For further reading and resources on peer observations:

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