UEA Peer Observation Policy ’Learning from the Practice of Others’


1             Scope

1.1         This policy sets out the procedure for peer observation of teaching which is mandated. This policy is relevant for Associate Deans, Heads of School, Director of Teaching (DoT), Teaching and Quality and staff roles which involve teaching. Schools are able to determine the frequency and details of their own peer observation of teaching schemes, subject to the minimum requirements of this policy.

The Policy applies to the following categories of staff:

•             ATR;

•             ATS;

•             Teaching Fellows;

•             PBL tutors;

•             Associate Tutors; and

•             Staff seconded to the University, and whose role entails teaching.

It does not apply to:

•             Honorary lectures (except where an entire modules is delivered by an individual honorary lecturer); and

•             PG students who are not on an AT contract.

1.2         It is acknowledged that the categories of teaching staff listed above may not encompass every type of teaching status which may arise at UEA. In the event that an individual in a teaching role does not reasonably fall into any of the listed categories then that individual and their line manager should reach mutual agreement on whether or not this policy applies to the individual concerned and that if it has been decided that the policy does apply, this should be recorded.


2             The Purpose and Principles of Peer Observation

2.1         Observation and reflection on teaching is an important process in developing and enriching practice to help with student learning. The core principle of this flexible policy is that by placing the emphasis on observing the practice of others and reflecting on that experience an individual will enhance their own practice. Deeper reflection can come from the act of observing another’s good practice and their innovative pedagogy. Observation of not only teaching delivery but also how a colleague has prepared or evaluated their teaching activities can provide a source of new ideas, as well as affirm existing practice. Reflection can make individuals more aware of strengths and weaknesses of their own practice. All teaching staff, regardless of length of experience can benefit by observation of others followed by reflection. Commitment to peer observation demonstrates to students, prospective students and other stakeholders the importance of high quality teaching to the institution. Summative peer observation will have been conducted for new staff through the MAHEP programme delivered by the Centre for Staff Education Development (CSED). Staff coming in with these qualifications or Fellowship of the HEA will have had peer observation as part of their course or to satisfy UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for HEA Fellowship.

2.2         For the purpose of this policy teaching and learning activities which may be used in this process can incorporate any activity which supports student learning and assessment. Observation examples include, but are not restricted to: face to face teaching in lectures, seminars and practicals, virtual teaching e.g. through Blackboard Collaborate, assessing virtual material e.g. captured material with ECHO360 or other screen casting software, review of material prior to an active learning session, review of quality and format of general teaching material, the planning and design of assessment and feedback provided to students. Cross-disciplinary peer observation of the good practice of colleagues in other schools, faculties, or institutions can also be undertaken. Group conversations can also occur with colleagues in the library, student support services, learning technologists within the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning (CTEL), external examiners or other external ‘critical friends’ such as employers.   

2.3         Peer observation is intended to support the personal and professional development of academic staff, and to disseminate and share instances of innovative and or best practice in lecturing via Faculty LTQCs. All reflections from staff will be recorded using a method of personal choice, this could be via a portfolio software tool e.g. PebblePad. This reporting will replace the PO1 form, staff need to just inform the DoT that the policy has been complied with on request by the DoT. The portfolio or other documentation can be shared with the relevant DoT so that they can draw information from staff members in their school for reporting as an annual standing item at the relevant FLTQC. The reflective nature of the reporting could provide rich sources of information for Teaching Excellence Plans (TEPs) and subsequent subject level TEF narratives.  

2.4         The focus of the policy is on continuing professional development and no summative judgements will be made on individual performance. Information from peer observation can be used in the Staff Appraisal process, but this is not compulsory. In this instance information would be shared with the line manager.

2.5         The policy is underpinned by the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) which provides a set of benchmarked standards for all staff involved in learning within a Higher Education Institution. The UKPSF identifies three dimensions of professional practice;

1.            Areas of activity undertaken by teachers and support staff (A)

2.            Core knowledge needed to carry out those activities at the appropriate level (K)

3.            Professional values that individuals performing these activities should exemplify (V)

Taking part in peer observation fulfils some aspects of the dimensions of practice (specifically A5, K5 and V3) and this can be used to help with promotion though the Academic Progressions Handbook (APH), fellowship application to the HEA or other awards such as Chartered status. See Peer Observation Handbook

2.6         If schools deem their current process of peer observation where the observer is providing feedback to their peer to be working effectively, then this policy allows for the continuation of existing practice under the ‘Observed peer observation’ (4.1). It is recognised that in some Schools there may be a requirement for this type of peer observation to report on teaching quality to external bodies for accreditation purposes. There may also be other ‘equivalent’ activities undertaken by staff for the purposes of professional revalidation that demonstrate reflective practice which may be accommodated by this policy.

2.7         All staff for whom peer observation is a requirement should undertake a minimum of one observation per year. At a more local level Schools can determine the frequency of observations.


3             Structure of the Observation Process where the Emphasis is on the Observer

3.1         The management of the system should be within a safe environment which allows for deep and honest reflection. It is for each School to decide how they want to structure and manage the observation process. There are two suggested models which are described in the Peer Observation handbook.  Model 1 would be the preferred approach, as it is mutually supportive, but it is recognised that some staff have research work which takes them away from the university for periods of time. Schools can adopt a mixed model approach or devise their own method which meets the requirements of the policy. 


4             Voluntary Observed Peer Observation

4.1         If a member of staff wishes their practice to be observed by a colleague within or outside of their School for e.g. promotion or recognition for HEA Fellowship then this can be requested as a voluntary process. We can draw on University resources including, but not limited to University Teaching Fellows, National Teaching Fellows and other staff members with SFHEA or PFHEA. Where staff are using this method of observation process they should refer to the UK professional Standards Framework (UKPSF).

4.2         A staff member can also request a student observation of teaching for e.g. promotion or recognition for HEA Fellowship. This would be supported through a student observation scheme (run in partnership with the SU) where students and academics engage in a dialogue and feedback is provided on a specific learning and teaching session. Students would be trained in peer observation.