Face-to-Face Course Observations

The DWR maintains a teaching-centered culture and wants every teacher to be successful. As faculty, we learn from each other and share ideas. We value academic freedom, appropriate levels of standardization, research-based pedagogies, and deliberate innovation. We believe teaching can be improved through purposeful reflection. Regular classroom observations help to improve our teaching practices. We learn as much from observing others as we learn from being observed. This ongoing exchange of ideas strengthens our culture by showcasing and improving the unique contributions we each bring to the profession. As a routine of support and collegiality, we expect that teaching observations will protect and enhance our high pedagogical standards.

Observation Forms


Faculty: submit an observation request form before your observation takes place (both observation types) Observers: select the observation type to submit an observation report.


  • All faculty, regardless of rank or position, must be observed during their first semester of teaching at UM. These formative observations (through which colleagues provide feedback to one another) should be conducted by a core faculty member, the assistant chair, or the chair.

  • All other faculty, regardless of rank or position, must be observed once every three regular (fall/spring) semesters. These formative observations should be conducted by a full-time DWR faculty member, the assistant chair, or the chair.

  • All graduate instructors, regardless of experience, must be observed before midterm of their first semester of UM teaching and once more at any point during the remainder of their first year. In the second year of teaching and beyond, graduate instructors must be observed once per year. These formative observations should be conducted by a core faculty member.

  • All faculty seeking promotion should be observed in the year prior to promotion. These summative observations (through which instruction is evaluated) should be conducted by the chair, the assistant chair, or a core faculty member who is senior in rank.

  • Faculty who teach online should submit each distinct course taught for evaluation once every three regular (fall/spring) semesters. These holistic evaluations should be conducted by the DWR instructional designer and/or online faculty members designated by him or her in conjunction with the Division of Outreach Online Course Enrichment program. For teachers who also teach face-to-face classes, this evaluation is in addition to their regular observations.

Faculty members and graduate instructors schedule their own observations. After the observation, the observer will submit an observation report through the Teaching Hub. The report will be distributed to the observer, the observed faculty member, and optionally the core instructor the course observed. Online course evaluations, in addition to being shared with the above-referenced individuals, are shared with the Division of Outreach. The schedule for online course evaluation is maintained by the DWR instructional designer in coordination with the Division of Outreach.

Best Practices

  • To establish trust and reciprocity, create teaching observation partnerships or triads with colleagues.

  • Build variety by partnering with different colleagues and using different methods over time.

  • If you have trouble finding a partner or group, reach out to the communications specialist for names of faculty members who have not yet been observed.

  • Keep the observation forms and their content private. Share the forms only with the faculty member observed, the DWR communications specialist, and, for online course evaluations, the appropriate curriculum committee chair.

  • Keep in mind the distinction between formative observations (to provide feedback to a colleague) and summative observations (to evaluate instruction). Remember that summative observations only occur in the year prior to promotion.

  • Pre-observation conversations via email or in person allow colleagues to pinpoint areas for focused observation.

  • Post-observation conversations via email or in person allow colleagues to share ideas and learn from each other.

  • Be mindful that teaching observations have limitations, including unforeseen circumstances, collegiality issues, and biases about pedagogy, subject matter, etc. They are a snapshot of one teacher in one class on one day.

Additional Reading

Bernstein, Daniel J. 2008. “Peer Review and Evaluation of the Intellectual Work of Teaching.” Change. March/April.

Bernstein, Daniel J., Jessica Jonson, and Karen Smith. 2000. “An Examination of the Implementation of Peer Review of Teaching.” New Directions for Teaching and Learning. 83: 73-86

Bernstein, Daniel., A.N. Burnett, A. Goodburn and P Savory. 2006. Making Teaching and Learning Visible: Course Portfolios and the Peer Review of Teaching. Anker.

Center for Teaching Effectiveness. “Preparing for Peer Observation: A Guidebook.” University of Texas, Austin.

Chism, Nancy V. 2007. Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook. 2nd Edition. Anker.

Glassick, C. M. T. Huber, and G. Maeroff. 1997. Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. Jossey-Bass.

Hutchings, Pat. 1995. From Idea to Prototype: The Peer Review of Teaching. Stylus

Hutchings, Pat. 1996. “The Peer Collaboration and Review of Teaching.” ACLS Occasional Paper No 33.

Hutchings, Pat. 1996. Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review. Stylus

Hutchings, Pat. 1998. The Course Portfolio. Stylus

Perlman, Baron and Lee I. McCann. 1998. “Peer Review of Teaching: An Overview.” Office of Teaching Resources in Psychology and Department of Psychology, Georgia Southern University.

Seldin, P. 1997. The Teaching Portfolio. 2nd Edition. Anker.

Seldin, P. 1999. Changing Practices in Evaluating Teaching: A Practical Guide to Improved Faculty Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions. Jossey-Bass.

Shulman, Lee S. 2004. Teaching as Community Property: Essays on Higher Education. Jossey-Bass.