Designing a system for observation of teaching

Published date01 July 2006
Date01 July 2006
AuthorPeter Washer
Subject MatterEducation
Designing a system for
observation of teaching
Peter Washer
University College, London, UK
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on observation of teaching in a Higher
Education (HE) context with a view to proposing some guidelines for the design and practice of
institutional systems to observe teaching.
Design/methodology/approach A literature review and a proposed model for a system of
observation of teaching with practical suggestions for managing the process and the information that
results from implementation.
Findings – Practice in this area across the HE sector remains patchy and frequently cursory, despite
the benefits that may follow from implementation of such systems, namely improved teaching and
thus student learning.
Originality/value – This article synthesises best practice guidelines and proposes a three-stage
process to be adopted to help ensure that lecturers (and their students) gain the maximum benefit from
being observed.
Keywords Teaching, Quality , Higher education
Paper type General review
Across the university sector, the practice of lecturers observing and giving feedback on
each other’s teaching is patchy. Lecturers often do not like being observed while
teaching and find the process threatening, time-consuming and often see it as a paper
exercise simply carried out for Quality review purposes. Yet if handled sensitively , the
time invested in the process of observing teaching and being observed can help
improve the students experience; share best practice; build academic links and foster
innovation. These benefits apply both to new and experienced academics. The
feedback given is confidential, but can potentially be used by the participant for
promotion purposes or to build a professional portfolio for recognition of lecturing
skills. This paper reviews the literature and outlines the issues around observation of
teaching in higher education, and proposes a model of good practice which can be used
and adapted across the sector.
Why do observation of teaching?
Most lecturers can remember good (and bad)teaching they themselves had as students,
without being necessarily able to recall precisely what made one experience more
enjoyable or educationally worthwhile than another. Teachers in other sectors usually
have been observed or have observed other teachers as part of their initial teacher
training. In fact, evaluation of teacher training courses frequently rate feedback from
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
This paper is based on work carried out at Queen Mary, University of London. The author would
like to thank Steve Ketteridge, Director of Educational and Staff Development at Queen Mary, for
his comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
Observation of
Quality Assurance in Education
Vol. 14 No. 3, 2006
pp. 243-250
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/09684880610678559

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT