Observations of teaching can provide teachers with formative information. They also can provide summative information, such as that required by the personnel process for tenure-track faculty at Stockton. This page has two sections: Advice for those being observed and Advice for those observing. Here is a short handout that provide this advice in more detail.
The IFD recommends that new faculty, including adjunct, 13D, and 13O faculty, strongly consider being observed at least once in their first semester. Observations can be used informally to inform a conversation with a colleague about teaching. Or, they may be used formally to provide additional data, in addition to student evaluations, to inform personnel decisions. Most frequently, they are used in both ways.
Tenure track faculty need to have two formal observations a year that they can use in their personnel files. Faculty starting in Fall 2012 or later need two even from their first year; Faculty starting before Fall 2012 may have two fewer total observations at any given time as they were not required to be observed in year one:
Year one (file due in January): 2 observations required, can be completed at any time in fall and spring terms.
Year two (file due in January or February): 4 observations required
Year three (file due in February): 6 observations required (two new observations since the last file deadline)
Year four (file due in February): 8 observations required (two new observations since the last file deadline)
Year five (no file due): 0 observations required
Total: a minimum of 8 observations are required before a tenure-track candidate's tenure file is due. More are permitted, but not required. All observations must be completed by a tenured faculty member selected by the observee in consultation with that person's Review Advisor and Dean. At least one observation must be of a General Studies course unless General Studies teaching is not part of the faculty member's contract.
General advice from the IFD is that unless program standards provide guidance that prohibits this, most candidates will be well served by having, among the six minimum observations, the following:
Readers of the above advice should note, however, that the advice in italics is advice, and faculty do not need to heed it. The IFD also advises that faculty keep these things in mind when choosing observers:
Participants in the first Summer Institute for Peer Evaluation of Teaching recommend that faculty might consider have two observers at the same time, one a content specialist and one a pedagogy specialist.
FAQ about observations:
1) Faculty in my program seem to be having observers observe the same lesson in multiple semesters. Can they do this? Yes, they can. Should they? That depends. It may be wise to show growth over time, or it may lead evaluators to wonder if they have put lots of energy into one perfect lesson. Whether the latter worries you depends in part upon whether you want to know of a faculty member’s typical teaching or of their potential for good teaching. And these issues are complex, different people will have different opinions, and each candidate is unique. Candidates might be wise to consider this choice carefully and discuss it with multiple people whose opinions they trust.
In Summer 2012, the college sponsored a Summer Institute for Peer Evaluation of Teaching. Participants are available to consult with colleagues planning to observe others and a summary of advice and discussion from that group (informed by published literature on the topic and a practice observation, as well as experience on PRC's and the FRC, observing, being observed, and mentoring) is available.
· Deborah Gussman, Associate Professor of Literature and WGSS, ARHU
· Michael Hozik, Professor of Geology, NAMS
· Marissa Levy, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, SOBL
· Betsy McShea, Associate Professor of Developmental Math, GENS
· Pat Reid Merrit, Distinguished Professor of Social Work and Africana Studies, SOBL
· Jed Morfit, Associate Professor of Art, ARHU
· Shanthi Rajaraman, Associate Professor of Chemistry, NAMS
· Elizabeth Shobe, Associate Professor of Psychology, SOBL
Those observing a class should, above all, produce in a timely fashion a fair summary (formal or informal, depending upon the circumstances) of the class observed. Summaries that will be used in the personnel process should comment (as much as is possible) on the standards of excellence for teaching in the college standards. Where programs have elaborated on those standards or added additional standards, those should also be addressed. Some programs have their own processes or forms, and where applicable, those should be used.
Here is a sample write up of a teaching observation (of a strong class) which demonstrates how a writer might connect their observations to the college standards. It is useful if the observers show readers what happened so that they can judge for themselves rather than simply evaluate in a few sentences. That said, this sample is particularly detailed and all observation reports need not and should not follow this format or include this much detail.
--Wilkerson, LuAnn, & Lewis, Karron G. "Classroom Observation: The Observer as Collaborator." A Guide to Faculty Development. Eds. Kay Herr Gillespie, Linda R. Hilsen, and Emily C. Wadsworth. Anker Publishing, 2002. pp. 74-81.
--Lewis, Karron. "Collecting Information via Classroom Observation." Practically Speaking: A Sourcebook for Instructional Consultants in Higher Education. Ed. Kathleen Brinko and R. J. Menges. New Forums Press, 1996. Pp. 29-51.
--Lewis, Karron. "Using an Objective Observation System to Diagnose Teaching Problems." Face to Face: A Sourcebook of Individual Consultation Techniques for Faculty/Instructional Developers. Eds. Lewis & Joy T. Povlacs Lunde. New Forums Press, 2001. Pp. 115-133.
Please note that while the sample I provide is just a sample, and I hope to post additional samples in alternate forms soon, there are some requirements for observers in the official faculty evaluation procedures, as follow:
"184.108.40.206 Peer evaluation of teaching shall be based on a review of syllabi, assignments and other course materials, and by direct classroom observation by the peer evaluator as set forth in this section.
220.127.116.11 Observations shall take place in a class and at a time mutually agreed upon between the candidate and the evaluator.
18.104.22.168 Within the context of the course objectives outlined in the syllabus or other course materials, observers shall describe and evaluate the quality of teaching in writing, with reference to all applicable standards for excellence in teaching. This statement shall be shared with the faculty member being evaluated within two weeks of the classroom evaluation."
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