Peer Observations of Teaching

The goal of peer observation is to document, learn from, and share ideas about teaching and learning. It is hoped that peer observation will become a routine, productive, and collegial part of life at the college to the equal benefit of observing and observed faculty. This process was developed to help good teachers become even better, more confident teachers. Ours is a reciprocal, collaborative, and developmental peer observation process befitting an innovative ‘community of learning.’

Peer observation is beneficial to our culture of teaching excellence in several ways:

  1. Helps all instructors develop best practice in teaching
  2. Enables us to collaborate with and learn from colleagues
  3. Ensure that good teaching is recognized both in the collegiate culture and more specifically in tenure and promotion decisions

To achieve these inter-related ends, Yale-NUS College promotes two similar but distinct types of teaching observation – one formative, and one summative. They are detailed below.

Distinguishing Formative and Summative Observation

Formative Summative
Observer Gains Learn new strategies, consider new ideas, and contribute to peer’s professional development.
Faculty Member Gains Greater self-awareness, intentionality, insight into achievement of student learning goals and of generally relevant good practices in education.

Opportunity to demonstrate reflective practice and self-assess improvement in teaching over time.

Gains from formative observation + Evidence of development as an educator, commitment to teaching excellence, and teaching effectiveness.

Complement to student evaluations.

Evidence of reflective practice and improvement which can be referenced in teaching statements.

Format Observer or faculty member can initiate request.

Up to participants – can be very informal or more structured following summative observation protocol.

Faculty member initiates request for summative observation, consulting with divisional director to select appropriate observer.

Pre-observation conversation à One or more classroom visit à Post-observation conversation à Formal written report shared with faculty member and submitted to file.

Timing & Number of Observations Annually — Every faculty member, including visiting and tenured faculty, should conduct and receive a formative observation every year they are teaching at the College. Annually – Every faculty member except those who already attained the highest rank in their appointment should receive summative observation every year they teach at the College.

Under normal circumstances, a faculty member should have at least 2 letters by third year review, and 5 letters by tenure and promotion review.

There are short-term contingencies for current faculty explained in Annex B report from the TLA Committee.

Training Recommended, Not Required Strongly Recommended – this is important for fairness, to mitigate implicit bias, and promote evaluative consistency across the faculty.
What to Observe 1.     Faculty member’s own teaching goals and techniques.

2.     Indicators of achievement of faculty member’s teaching goals.

3.     Areas for improvement or innovation in achievement of those teaching goals and execution of teaching strategies.

4.     Evidence of teaching excellence consistent with indicators of good practice in undergraduate teaching.

5.     Areas for improvement to better align with good practice in undergraduate teaching.

How to Observe Can be very informal data collection and reflection-in-the-moment.

Encouraged to use more structured data collection tools – see Observation Organizers below.

Strongly encouraged to use some structured note-taking method to focus and record observation. See below for some suggested Observation Organizers.
Reporting & Deliverables All faculty will be prompted in their annual review to provide the names and dates of observations they have performed and received.

No formal letter or report is required. Individual observers may want to provide some written feedback to the faculty member they observed.

Reflective writing by both observer and faculty being observed is recommended, though not required, to consolidate learning from the experience.

All summative observations should conclude with a letter provided by the observer to the faculty member.

Faculty will then be prompted in their, annual review, third year review, and tenure/promotion processes to upload/ attach summative letters with other teaching portfolio materials.


Who Receives Observations

Formative observation is required of all faculty at all ranks, including visiting faculty. All faculty will be expected to have their own teaching observed, and to observe another faculty member’s teaching, at least once per year in which they are teaching at least one course. Faculty teaching in the common curriculum are having their teaching observed by peers quite frequently, and can request their common curriculum colleagues to conduct formative observations for them as well.

Summative observation is required for all faculty who will participate in third year review and undergo tenure and promotion review. Faculty who have attained the highest rank in their appointment (e.g. professors with a tenure-track appointment, professors with a non-tenured practice appointment and associate professors with an educator-track appointment) do not need to undergo summative observation. Ideally, all relevant faculty should have one summative observation letter in their file for every year they teach at Yale-NUS. Therefore most faculty up for third year review should have at least 2 letters and faculty up for tenure and promotion should have at least 5 letters. Faculty with leaves under special circumstances should consult the Associate Dean of Faculty Development to determine the appropriate number of summative letters for their files.

Process for Summative Observations

The summative observations should follow a four-part process: pre-observation conversation, classroom observation(s), post-observation conversation, reflection, and feedback.

  1. Pre-Observation Conversation: Meet to discuss pre-observation questions, establish ground-rules, and clarify expectations. Observer should review the course syllabus and other course materials to learn how the class to be observed fits into the larger course design. (One week prior to classroom observation.)
  2. Classroom Observation: Observer attends class and quietly observes, taking notes on teaching strategies and evidence of student learning.
  3. Post-Observation Conversation: Observer and faculty member meet, faculty member shares own experience and self-assessment. Observer shares observations and feedback verbally and/or in writing, and invites faculty member to share concerns and points of clarification. (Two/three days after observation.)
  4. Feedback: Observer writes a formal letter based on classroom observations and pre- and post-observation conversations. This letter should include an overall assessment of the teaching observed. Observer sends a summative letter to the faculty member, who then uploads the letter to their review and/or tenure and promotion file, along with his or her own reflections and elaborations if they so choose.


Documents and Form for Download

The full Guidelines on both formative and summative observation is available here: Guidelines on Peer Observation of Teaching

The Documentary Organiser is focused on documenting each section or activity that occurs during the class, and then providing space for the observer to comment on that activity and the learning they observe at that point in time.

The Thematic Organiser is focused on particular themes, ideally drawn from the faculty member’s own stated learning aims and aforementioned “good practices.”

The Criteria Organiser is focused on specific standards of good teaching drawn from literature on pedagogy and student learning.