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At my UK university all new teaching staff, as part of the requirements to fulfil the requirements for a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE), have their teaching observed by a member of their department, a member of another department, and a member of the Education Department (who run the PGCHE course). I don't understand the advantages of being observed by the three different people. What should I strive to get out of each observation?

  • It is a UK university. Most UK universities are moving towards requiring all teaching staff to have a PGCHE, in the most extreme case a Master's in Education and in the lightest touch, about half the credits towards a Masters. – StrongBad Aug 7 '14 at 19:00
  • I think "differential analysis" comparing the performance of the students for several teachers should hint better the quality of their work than simply observing (with the disruption caused by observation). The purpose to me seems to be to pretend that quality is taken seriously and there is some QA guaranteed by peer review, because nothing is better than peer review. However, everything feels like pretending to me lately. – Trylks Aug 7 '14 at 20:01
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    For a recent promotion, I read some of the literature on evaluation of teaching. Some of the folks I read (and I'll get the links, if I can find them) consider peer evaluation of teaching to be among the worst methods for assessing quality teaching. – Chris Leary Aug 7 '14 at 23:25
  • @ChrisLeary Yes, please do post those links. – earthling Aug 8 '14 at 1:38
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    Based on the comments, it's not clear to me whether you are being only observed or evaluated by your peers, could you clarify? My answer assumes the first case (where the observer does not make any judgement call on your teaching), the second case, where your final evaluation depends on your peer evaluation, is quite different. – user102 Aug 8 '14 at 9:05
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I'm attending a similar program at my university (also UK based), and I was observed by a senior member of my faculty, and by another attendee of the same program.

The main point was to initiate a reflective process of our teaching. Hence, the observation was not an evaluation, but simply the collection of some pieces of evidence, that described our lecture. Our actual assignment was not the observation in itself, but how we reflect upon the evidence, by describing how we feel about it, how we analyse it, what conclusions do we make about it, and what are the next steps we decide to engage on.

Interestingly, I've collected different types of evidence from my two observers: the senior member of my faculty made some observations in particular related to the content of my lecture, while the observer who was on the same program made some observations related to some of the techniques taught in the program that I used during the lecture. In both cases, all observations were really useful to start the reflective process. I can only assume this is the rationale for you to have three different observers.

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I believe the goal of having three people in such different positions is to give you different perspectives.

Someone from your department may well see things very similar to you. After all, you likely have the same boss, attend the same training courses, etc. So, this teacher is there to help you see if you are following the game plan that they think you should be following.

The person from the other department still has the perspective of delivering "content" courses as opposed to teaching teachers how to teach. They should understand things quite similar to you but in a different way because they likely have a different boss (though somewhere up the chain I suspect the bosses merge) and they might receive different ongoing training. So this teacher is to see if your department is on the right path. There is less loyalty between this monitor and you because you might not even know each other but at the very least, you do not work together every day.

The education specialist should understand the theories of teaching better than any of the three, and perhaps better than you. After all, this is their area of expertise. Part of the reason they are there might be to continue their research but the main reason is to see if you have been taught properly. Perhaps even to assess you as we assess each of our students.

I know MANY teachers do not like being observed. I never felt that way. Actually, I always want to hear how I can do better. Honestly, I would prefer to be observed (with meaningful feedback) more regularly - perhaps even once or twice per month.

Remember, just like you are there to help your students genuinely improve, so these observers are there to help you genuinely improve.

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