Member Event Recap: “Feedback on Teaching” (Apr 18, 2019)

The roundtable for 20 members began with a presentation by Academy Member Janet Batzli on the current status of peer evaluation, focusing on ongoing efforts to expand and enhance the processes for generating peer feedback on teaching. This was followed by a discussion on guiding principles and key opportunities and potential challenges for peer evaluations.


Key points from Janet Batzli’s presentation: The main goal is “open the door to our classroom” and nurture a culture of positive, productive feedback on teaching. Not based on fear or defensiveness, or uncertainty for how the information can be used. The teacher should be in control of setting goals and how the information is used to improve the teaching and student learning in the classroom.  Feedback on teaching should be about working together as a team to improve learning. In late 1990s, CCLE (Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment) led by Katherine Sanders, Lillian Tong, Chris Dakes and others generated a demand for peer review and classroom observation. CCLE engaged several campus leaders on teaching and learning. It also laid the groundwork for cohort based faculty professional development in the form of MTLE where feedback on teaching in the form of formative peer review is a part of the professional development training. Things learned:

  • Start early, iterate, goal-based (solve a teaching issue for the instructor). All about relationship & trust – growth mindset. Formative first! Pivot to summative (perhaps) once goals and relationship has been developed.   
  • In 2013, Teaching Academy leaders piloted a peer feedback on teaching (PFOT) program in the form of matching teaching academy fellows with early career faculty (e.g. MTLE fellows), providing 2 workshops for TA fellows to 1.) do classroom observations of their partner faculty and 2.) manage and deliver feedback in a productive/ generative way (e.g., do not overwhelm- stick to goals and only stress 2-3 things). In between the workshops, partners (TA fellows and their partner observe) met once before a class observation to establish goals and once after the class observation to provide feedback.  
  • Review of the pilot PFOT program: General opinions on the quality of feedback was good but the full in-person workshop model seemed like too much time: 10hrs + commitment for the TA fellow (i.e. mentor observer).  Working to move the workshops online as a “Tool pack” with 10 observation tools that can be used flexibly (i.e. used alone or mix/match). The online self-service component may be complemented by some  face-to-face conversations among TA fellows (mentor observers). The key message is: “Open the door to your classroom!” But, a lot of culture change is needed to be fully embraced by campus.

Additional notes:

  • Student evaluation is important for  course/teacher mid-semester feedback and final evaluations because they spend a semester observing and they are the intended recipients of information transfer and engagement, so they should speak to whether those elements worked well for their learning or not.  To encourage deeper feedback from students, the Academy might want to recommend SGID (Small Group Instruction Diagnosis- focus group) or DIGS (Dialogues on Instruction with groups of students) as a tool for improving student evaluations.
  • Peer reviews might be better than students when the instructor has very specific objectives they have not met to their own satisfaction for transmitting content or engaging students to be active learners, or if they seek objective/ arms reach observer feedback and review. Could students do this just as well? No, students are NOT well placed to do this since they need to focus on the material. It is probably known what categories of feedback peers are better at delivering, so some pedagogical literature review might be needed.
  • The Teaching Academy might want to promote formative feedback as an activity protected from summative evaluations so that a culture of open classrooms spreads because it is a trusted format for improving teaching. Later, if a mentee wants a summative evaluation, the trusted mentor can pivot and provide that, but initially the formative feedback is for the mentee’s eyes only. Opinions differ ont his point: Janet Batzli wrote “Not sure we were in complete agreement on this. Just remembering Raph Grunwald’s experience talking about peer review with his colleagues in Legal Studies. I believe we can BUILD a culture of positive, open peer review, but this will take leadership and good/positive testimonials from experience. I think the Teaching Academy can play a huge role in that, with additional support / testimonials from department chairs and faculty (early career especially- MTLE could formalize) who have benefitted from peer review. ”