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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Peer observation of teaching as a faculty development tool

Peter B Sullivan*, Alexandra Buckle, Gregg Nicky and Sarah H Atkinson

Author Affiliations

Department of Paediatrics, Children’s Hospital, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:26  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-26

Published: 4 May 2012

Abstract

Background

Peer observation of Teaching involves observers providing descriptive feedback to their peers on learning and teaching practice as a means to improve quality of teaching. This study employed and assessed peer observation as a constructive, developmental process for members of a Pediatric Teaching Faculty.

Methods

This study describes how peer observation was implemented as part of a teaching faculty development program and how it was perceived by teachers. The PoT process was divided into 4 stages: pre-observation meeting, observation, post-observation feedback and reflection. Particular care was taken to ensure that teachers understood that the observation and feedback was a developmental and not an evaluative process. Twenty teachers had their teaching peer observed by trained Faculty members and gave an e-mail ‘sound-bite’ of their perceptions of the process. Teaching activities included lectures, problem-based learning, small group teaching, case-based teaching and ward-based teaching sessions.

Results

Teachers were given detailed verbal and written feedback based on the observer’s and students’ observations. Teachers’ perceptions were that PoT was useful and relevant to their teaching practice. Teachers valued receiving feedback and viewed PoT as an opportunity for insight and reflection. The process of PoT was viewed as non-threatening and teachers thought that PoT enhanced the quality of their teaching, promoted professional development and was critical for Faculty development.

Conclusions

This study demonstrated that PoT can be used in a constructive way to improve course content and delivery, to support and encourage medical teachers, and to reinforce good teaching.

Keywords:
Peer observation; Feedback; Medical education