Implementing Peer Observation of Teaching. A Formative Staff Develpment Initiative
For higher education institutions in Ireland, the call for improved efficiency and accountability to stakeholders in all areas of activity has never been more prominent than today. Reform initiatives are taking place across the sector and a key focus of this reformation is the quality assurance and quality enhancement of teaching activity, and the professional development of teaching staff. Peer observation of teaching is widely accepted as a mode of enhancing teaching practice and as a conduit for staff development. This change project centres on the implementation of a pilot of peer observation of teaching within a higher education institution and describes the process enacted when implementing the pilot project. Guided by the framework of the HSE Change Model the change process is described and its strengths and limitations acknowledged. The perceptions and experiences of participants in the pilot project are evaluated using the Jacobs Model of Evaluation. A survey of 66 teaching staff was conducted to elicit staff perceptions of peer observation of teaching. Staff volunteers participated in an education workshop and then undertook one peer observation, five acting as observers and 5 acting as observees. Their experiences were captured in focus groups interviews (n=7). The results indicate that staff would like to see peer observation of teaching introduced and that they value the formative, developmental model, as evidenced in the literature. Finally an informed basis for introducing a formative model of peer observation of teaching into the institution that consolidates the findings of this study is proposed.