When and with whom did you do your last peer observation?
Dr Rebecca Brammall (Course Leader, MA Media, Communications and Critical Practice at LCC) and I took turns to observe each other in April 2019. We’re both MA Course Leaders, but Rebecca’s course sits within a different programme.
How did the process work: are you allocated a partner by your college, or did you choose?
There’s an expectation of doing peer observation at the College. It is built into our PRAs and until recently academics organised this amongst ourselves. Rebecca and I knew each other due to other roles we have in the Media School but had not really seen each other teach. I arranged this session because I specifically wanted to observe a colleague on a Final Major Project seminar within a different context.
What was it like to be observed/to observe?
I’ve been teaching for 10 years now so I’m comfortable with being observed. Rebecca partly interacted with the session as well as observing, and it was great to have her input.
What did you gain from the process of observing/being observed?
I found it an enjoyable process and very confidence building. Rebecca has more of a pure academic background whereas I previously worked in industry, so it was interesting to exchange our different experiences and perspectives. We found we had similar views of the challenges, such as classroom management, though. Although my curriculum includes a lot of practical aspects, overall both courses are at postgraduate level and the student profile is similar.
What will you do/change (if anything) as a result of your observation?
I gained some ideas about how to bring the academic reading more visibly into the sessions, and had thoughts on methods of differentiating my teaching. The two class sizes were different too, and I reflected on a variety of ways to engage larger groups more fully with discussions.
What surprised you most about the observation?
It’s not a surprise, but I’ve always found it is a dialogue that comes from such a positive place and is so encouraging. The benefits are intangible really, the space to step back from your practice and gain new ideas. It encourages continuous improvement too. I experimented in the session, which Rebecca spotted and we then talked about how to build on that further.
What advice would you give to colleagues who are about to do/have their own observations?
Think really carefully about what you, the observer, want to get out of the exercise. If there is a particular type of session or approach you want to see in action, be really specific about what will help you.
The challenge is usually arranging the time to do the observation on the right type of session, so planning early will be helpful too.