The benefits of peer observation and evaluation procedures for faculty at all levels are well-established but those we find of particular importance include the following:

  1. Improve faculty and program accountability of teaching practices. Core objectives of objective peer evaluations create a useful evaluation tool with rubric to help faculty develop and maintain quality courses (including those taught online)
  2. Identify “best practices” in courses (including online) and implement new teaching activities, approaches, and techniques into our new and existing courses
  3. Recognize faculty (and be recognized as a program) for creating and sustaining quality courses (in face-to-face, hybrid, and fully online modes)
  4. Create standards for (new) core, affiliate, and adjunct faculty to be consistent and effective in their teaching.

How can we enable effective peer observation and evaluation? Keig and Waggoner (1995) describe the process of collaborative peer review, in which
faculty work together to assess each other's teaching and to assist one another in efforts to improve it. The process should include opportunities for faculty to learn how to teach more effectively, to practice new teaching techniques and approaches, to get regular feedback on their classroom performance, and to receive coaching from colleagues and consultants. (p. 52)
When faculty do participate in this kind of collaborative peer review, they benefit from the expert review of other faculty members in their discipline. These faculty can comment on elements like:
  • Course organization
  • Clarity and appropriateness of course objectives
  • Classroom management and engagement of students
  • Mastery of course content
  • Selection of course content
  • Effectiveness of instructional materials (e.g., readings, media)
  • Appropriateness of evaluation practices (e.g., exams, assignments)
  • Appropriateness of methods used to teach specific types of content
  • Commitment to teaching and concern for student learning
  • Support of departmental instructional culture (Roberson & Franchini, 2008, p. 5).
While student evaluations offer us one view of the classroom, peer observations and evaluations by faculty in our disciplines can give us another view, helping us triangulate what's happening in our classrooms through the inclusion of multiple data streams. Even having an observer from outside our discipline can be helpful, as these faculty members may be more likely to pay attention to the pedagogical moves occurring in the class and less about the content being taught.