Peer Observation

Ideally, Peer observation should involve a tandem of TAs who watch each other teach and provide each other with feedback. This dyadic model should help to prevent two possible evaluative extremes: the wholly negative critique (e.g., "here, in no particular order, are the thirty-seven things you did wrong") and the uncritically positive response (e.g., "you did a great job–any suggestions I might add would be superfluous"). Peer observation participants should recognize the reciprocal need for critique that is both honest and constructive.

To aid participants in the difficult task of approaching and commenting on someone else's teaching, TAP has created:

Two further points are important concerning the evaluation template. First, each section asks peer observers to not only respond to what they have seen in the classroom, but to also provide concrete and practical suggestions. Second, the evaluation template is intended as a flexible guide for structuring one's peer evaluation, not a rigid specification of necessary responses. Indeed, program participants are encouraged to modify the template to suit their joint needs, or to develop an alternate schema of their own. What the template does point to is the need for a shared paradigm through which the Program participants can usefully respond to each other.

While the Peer Observation Program is clearly a program that will benefit TAs who are in the same or similar disciplines and/or teach similar courses, it also has the potential for fostering true interdisciplinary interaction. With adequate preparation, a process of reciprocal observation between, for instance, a physicist and a sociologist, could lead to the kind of interdisciplinary exchange that is often celebrated at a theoretical level but less rarely implemented at a pedagogical one. The observer could, in effect, come to the class with an undergraduate's background in the subject matter but with a pedagogical background on par with the instructor and thus offer a unique vantage point for evaluating the effectiveness of the class.