It is a common practice in education to have one faculty member observe another faculty member in the classroom to provide feedback on the teaching that is taking place. At institutions like Penn State, this is actually a required part of the promotion and tenure process.
The typical process for conducting a faculty peer review is to have the reviewer visit the instructor's classroom, observe what takes place on that occasion, then write up their observations in the form of a memo to the instructor and, if required, the instructor's supervisor. Often little to no guidance is given to the reviewer, so the quality of the feedback can vary widely. Some colleges like Penn State College of IST provide reviewers with detailed observation guides to ensure better results. But what about the online classroom? How does one "observe teaching" in an online course and what guidelines can be given to the reviewer?
A member of the Penn State learning design community, Ann Taylor, Director of the Dutton e-Education Institute, has designed, implemented, and assessed a peer review process for online teaching that has been approved for University use by the Penn State Online Coordinating Council. The Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State is based on Chickering and Gamson's Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education that we have already been discussing in this course. Each adapted principle is described in detail in the Guide, including examples of evidence of how a principle may be met in an online course. Resources for additional information are also included.
The Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State is composed of two parts:
- An Instructor Input Form to be completed for the reviewer by the reviewee in advance of the peer review, and
- The actual Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State, which is to be completed by the reviewer during the peer review.
- Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State (Microsoft Word version that can be customized)
- Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State ("as is" PDF version that can be filled in and saved)
Following the peer review, the reviewer summarizes her observations in a document that is to be included in the reviewee's dossier—identical to the procedure followed in resident instruction. (NOTE: The following examples are fictitious.)
Reviewers are encouraged to share the completed Guide with the reviewee, as well.
Beyond the Formal Peer Review
The Peer Review Guide can be beneficial beyond the formal peer review process. Faculty are encouraged to use these tool for self-assessment, as well. Faculty new to the online classroom might find the tool helpful before they even begin teaching as a means for seeing what good teaching is observed to look like!