Peer Observations

Article image

Peer Observations

AB Contact profile image
Author :
Anne Baker
Want to improve your teaching? Participating in a peer observation process is a great way to create a space for you to reflect upon your own teaching and open up a dialogue related to best practices in teaching. It is very important to note that peer observations are NOT evaluative and are NOT tied to performance review. They are a training and development tool to facilitate reflection and personal growth.

A peer observation process can:
  • create a culture that values best practices in teaching and facilitation; 
  • provide learning opportunities for employees to reflect upon their own teaching and facilitative leadership skills and learn from their peers; and 
  • build capacity in teacher training, observation feedback, and general pedagogy within the organization. 
The MSU Extension Peer Observation Process is based on the following premises.

Premise #1: Peer observation is helpful for teachers, especially for the one observing.

  • Faculty in higher education report that peer observation is useful (83%) and a majority (74%) feel it should be required (Divall, M. et al. 2019).
  • In peer observation, the true learner is the one who is observing (Richardson, 2000; Hendry & Oliver, 2012). Watching another teach is useful and instructive and allows teachers to discover new resources and ways of teaching, supports career-long learning in teaching, and provides a forum for teachers to discuss what good teaching is (Richardson, 2000).

Premise #2: Evaluative observation can be invalid and potentially destructive.

  • In evaluative observation, staff doing the observing may lack the motivation or knowledge to make good recommendations. It is also possible that that observer’s critique may damage the self-efficacy of the teacher being observed as a result of feedback that is not delivered in an appropriate way (Hendry & Oliver, 2012).
  • The validity of evaluative observations for measuring teacher efficacy is troublesome. Strong et al. (2011) looked at observations of teachers who were classified as “effective” or “ineffective” based on student achievement data, and then had observers with different levels of expertise watch recordings of those teachers teach and classify the teachers as “effective” or “ineffective.” Although judges were in high agreement (rater reliability), they demonstrated a low ability to identify effective teachers. Administrators and teacher educators were accurate only about one-third of the time. In other words, observers are unable to identify effective teachers from ineffective teachers.
  • To explore the conundrum of why evaluative observation isn’t accurate, I recommend reading Dr. Robert Coe’s blog post “Classroom observation: It’s hard than you think” (2014), published by the Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring at Durham University.

Premise 3#: Peer observation processes align to adult learning theory.

  • Theories of experiential learning, the teaching model used in 4-H, align to our proposed peer observation process. Experiential learning includes doing, reflecting, and applying. In the proposed peer observation process, the educators involved “do” by teaching or observing, “reflect” through post-observation reflection forms and structured conversations, and then “apply” by integrating new ideas and concepts into their own teaching.
  • The peer observation process aligns with social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997) which posits that personal, behavioral, and environmental influences interact in learning. Concepts of self-efficacy, the belief that we can take actions to improve performance, is supported through the peer observation process.
Learn more about the MSU Extension Peer Observation Process.


Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control.  London: W.H. Freeman & Co Ltd.

Coe, R. (2014, January 9). Classroom observation: it’s harder than you think. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

DiVall, M., PharmD., Barr, Judith,M.Ed, ScD., Gonyeau, M., PharmD., Matthews, S. J., Van Amburgh, J., PharmD, Qualters, D., PhD., & Trujillo, J., PharmD. (2012). Follow-up assessment of a faculty peer observation and evaluation program. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 76(4), 1-61. Retrieved from

J., Van Amburgh, J., PharmD, Qualters, D., PhD., & Trujillo, J., PharmD. (2012). Follow-up assessment of a faculty peer observation and evaluation program. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 76(4), 1-61. Retrieved from

Hendry, G. D., & Oliver, G. R. (2012). Seeing is believing: The benefits of peer observation. Journal of University Teaching and Learning Practice, 9(1), 1-11. Retrieved from

Richardson, M. O. (2000). Peer observation: Learning from one another. Thought & Action, 16(1), 9-20. Retrieved from

Strong, M., Gargani, J., & Hacifazlioğlu, Ö. (2011). Do We Know a Successful Teacher When We See One? Experiments in the Identification of Effective Teachers. Journal of Teacher Education, 62(4), 367–382.

Weller, S. (2009). What does "peer" mean in teaching observation for the professional development of higher education lecturers? International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(1), 25-35. Retrieved from

Posted by:
Anne Marie Baker #iteachmsu
#observe #new teacher #observations #teaching