Peer Review of Teaching

Peer review of teaching provides faculty members with an opportunity to receive and discuss feedback on their teaching. The Cornell Teaching Partnership Program can facilitate peer-review of teaching by pairing a new faculty member with a tenured faculty member. 

Getting Started with Peer Review of Teaching 

Existing practices at Cornell and published research shows that effective peer review of classroom teaching generally includes the following steps: 

Pre-Observation Meeting 

During a pre-observation meeting, the observer and the instructor discuss the instructor’s plan for the class and touch on the following questions: 

  • What do you want the students to have learned by the end of this class? 
  • What will happen in the class? What can I, as the observer, expect to see? 
  • Are there specific aspects of the class on which the instructor would like to receive feedback? 

Class Observation 

Best practices in peer review propose that a core set of criteria be used in the observation process, and that departments discuss and establish criteria appropriate for their field. These criteria may vary among fields. In the pre-observation meeting, the instructor and observer identify two to three criteria to which the observer will pay particular attention during the class. Research cites the following criteria as factors that enhance student learning: 

  • Clarification of class purpose – How well does the instructor convey to the students the purpose of the class? 
  • Organization of class structure  – Are the class materials and activities well-organized? 
  • Reinforcement of major concepts –  Does the instructor emphasize the major concepts being covered? Do the activities and materials utilized in class reinforce the major concepts? 
  • Pacing and scope –  Is the material presented at a suitable rate? Is the amount of material covered reasonable? 
  • Classroom atmosphere –  Has the instructor established a safe and respectful classroom atmosphere conducive to student learning? Has the instructor created an inclusive class environment? 
  • Consideration of diversity –  Does the instructor acknowledge or interact with a broad range of students? Is the instructor respectful of diverse opinions and perspectives? Does the instructor employ a diverse set of activities or methods to accommodate a range of student learning modalities? 
  • Class management –  Does the instructor effectively manage the class? 
  • Balance between abstract and concrete –  If applicable, is there an appropriate balance between abstract and concrete concepts? 
  • Classroom assessment –  If applicable, in what ways does the instructor check for comprehension and solicit feedback? 

Post-Observation Meeting 

Following the class observation, the observer and instructor meet to review their assessment of the class. It is recommended that departments discuss and develop a post-observation process that reflects departmental teaching expectations and priorities for peer review. Some possible guidelines for a post observation meeting include: 

  • Sharing perspectives on what took place during the classroom session. 
  • Discussing any points brought up in the pre-observation meeting. 
  • Setting goals and preparing a teaching development plan.