Peer Review of Teaching

Teaching Excellence in Public Health | December 19th, 2018


Peer review of teaching is a process destined to improve instructional effectiveness of faculty, and constituted part of the instructional mentorship and development. In some instances, schools/programs use summative evaluations to inform personnel decisions. Broadly, the process usually entails a preliminary interview with the teaching faculty, class observation and a post observation meeting summarizing strengths and weaknesses. Class observations are directed to evaluate knowledge, instructional materials, class organization presentation form and substance, teacher and student interaction, student participation and assessment practices. Time and effort, potential bias and collegiality issues typically limit peer review of teaching. Nonetheless, this process remains one of the methods to improve the quality of instruction.

The following summary table presents information retrieved from ASPPH Academic Affairs members. Members were requested information on peer review of teaching, with a focus on both process and observation tools used. 12 schools/departments responded to the request. The table below summarizes processes and tools used as reported by these 12 members.

Preliminary Observations:

While some schools did not specify if the process was used only for formative purposes, data from the ASPPH report Innovations on Pedagogy survey (report here) indicates that 33 % of respondents (n=87) use peer reviews as a method for evaluation for promotion and tenure. This report also highlights that peer review of teaching is available in 47% of the schools/programs and reports that 37% of respondents find peer review very beneficial.

Full Description

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Colorado School of Public Health - Department of Epidemiology

Process used 1. a. Pre-class review of syllabus for:
appropriateness, clarity of goals, measurable learning objectives, planned activities and appropriate methods, cultural relevance and high expectations
b. Pre-conference meeting to understand goals and expectations2. In-class observation

3. Summary of observations – areas of strength, post-observation meeting and recommendation

Tool used N/S*
Domains assessed as part of the observation In-class observation

Form includes statements and invites for suggestions:

  • Evidence of student learning (attentive, ask questions, answer questions, solve problems)
  • Class teaching style and methods: instructor knows the subject, enthusiastic, has high expectations, creates comfortable learning environment,  presents clear and well-organized lectures, communicates clearly, interacts with students, expects students to prepare before class, encourages students’ participation, provides constructive feedback, teaches students how to think, assesses learning throughout the class, adapts teaching to in-class assessment
Final purpose Class observation notes and post-observation go to the instructor and are shared with departmental chair or committee.

Importance of emphasizing the constructive nature of the observation

Colorado School of Public Health - Department of Epidemiology (online courses)

Process used Online evaluation form
Tool used N/S
Domains assessed as part of the observation Feasibility of finding and accessing the information (syllabus, calendar of assignments, courses, quizzes, examinations, discussion, requirements of synchronous or asynchronous courses)
Final purpose N/S

Colorado School of Public Health – Department of Environmental Sciences

Process used Peer observation
Tool used N/S
Domains assessed as part of the observation Open-ended evaluation on instructors command of material, clarity of presentation, apparent quality of preparation, effectiveness of their use of teaching aids (PowerPoint, whiteboard, overhead, etc.), encouragement and use of student feedback during lectures and discussions, additional suggestions/comments about the course and/or instructor
Final purpose N/S

University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health

Process used 3 step:

1. Pre-observation conference – with interview guide focused on goal and expectation of class, students, and teaching style

2. Classroom observation

3. Post-observation conference – with interview guide focused on reflections, including areas for improvement

Tool used Adapted from Sorcinelli Observation Guide
Domains assessed as part of the observation Open-ended questions

  • Knowledge of subject matter (mastery)
  • Organization and clarity (structure, teaching strategy and closure)
  • Instructor-student interaction – discussion, kind of questions, level of questions, what is done with the questions and responses
  • Presentation and enthusiasm
  • Student behavior
  • Overall
Final purpose The forms are a guide and each department within the school uses different guides. The form adapted from Sorcinelli represents one of the forms in use.

Peer observation of teaching is a requirement for APT.

Yale School of Public Health

Process used In-class behavioral assessment of what the instructor and student are doing each minute from start to finish of the session
Tool used Modified version of Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) (Smith MK, Jones FHM, Gilbert SL, and Wieman CE. 2013. The Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS): a New Instrument to Characterize University STEM Classroom Practices. CBE‐Life Sciences Education, Vol 12(4), pp. 618‐627)
Domains assessed as part of the observation Every two minutes student and instructor behaviors should be checked off under the following categories:

  • Student behavior: listening and taking notes, problem-solving, discussing in group, working in groups, answering questions, asking questions, engaged in class discussion, making a prediction or experiment, presentation by student, quiz/test, or waiting
  • Instructor behavior: lecturing, writing, follow up, posting questions, listening, or answering questions, guiding the class, one on one extended discussion with one student, showing a demo experiment or simulation, administration, or waiting
Final purpose Class observation and subsequent consultation are shared only with the instructor for formative purposes.

Emory University Rollins School of Public Health

Process used In-class observation
Tool used Office of Evidence Based Learning, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health
Domains assessed as part of the observation 3 areas evaluated in a Likert scale (yes, somewhat, no , N/A)

  • Lesson organization
  • Lesson implementation – including focus on application, 7 areas
  • Delivery and Style – 6 areas
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses and areas of improvement
Final purpose The use of the form is not mandatory. It is used only upon request by teaching faculty who want to demonstrate professional development in the area of teaching as part of the APT packet.

Penn State Department of Public Health Sciences (online)

Process used Online assessment for online courses
Tool used Adapted from Penn State
Domains assessed as part of the observation Availability/evidence of good practices on:
contact between students and faculty, reciprocity among students, active learning, prompt feedback, time to task, high expectations, diverse ways of learning
Final purpose N/S

Penn State Department of Public Health Sciences

Process used Peer Review Activity Guide on process and tools including a first phase for selection and scheduling of peer observations

1. Pre observation: lesson plan, teaching style, focus of observation instructor response to student evaluations

2. Review of student evals and syllabus

3. Class observation

4. Post observation
a. student focus groups
b. post-observation assessment – instructor reflection (on lesson and teaching style)

5. Evaluation: discussion and improvement plan

Tool used Penn State
Domains assessed as part of the observation Likert scale

  • Variety and pacing of instruction
  • Organization
  • Presentation skills
  • Clarity
  • Content knowledge
  • Rapport
  • General
  • Comments on teaching methods and instructional strategies
  • Summary checklist
Final purpose Appears to affect promotion and tenure

University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health

Process used Observation of teaching

Observation tool

Documentation assisted by the observation template

Tool used Adapted from Baskamp and University of Minnesota
Domains assessed as part of the observation Organized in 8 areas, but only 20 items within these areas are selected for observation

Likert scale on 4 points (very evident, evident mostly, evident during a portion of the class, not evident at all)

  • Lesson organization (other items included as opportunities to apply, frequent checks on student performance)
  • Content and knowledge
  • Relevance
  • Presentation
  • Instructor-student interaction
  • Collaborative learning techniques – focus on group task promoting learning objectives and engagement of non-engaged students
  • Lesson implementation – use of questions, probing, adequate pacing, promotion of critical thinking
  • Instructional material – what and how
  • Student responses – student behavior
  • What students learned
  • Strengths and weaknesses
Final purpose N/S

University of Minnesota School of Public Health

Process used 1. Observation of teaching

2. Peer review of class assignments and assessments: 4 p Likert scales

3. Peer review of examples of student performance: 4 p Likert scale (appears to be overall and includes grade distribution)

4. Peer review of syllabus

Tool used Peer Observation of Teaching protocol
Domains assessed as part of the observation Observation of Teaching – open-ended
Context or Background – settingObservation areas:1. Instructor goals

2. Significance of class activities

3. Student engagement

4. Examination of student achievement goals

Best practices: Assessments

Final purpose N/S

Albany State University of New York School of Public Health

Process used Peer observation checklist
Tool used Peer observation template
Domains assessed as part of the observation Observation – all based on instructor behavior

Check off if observed or not and provide comments on the following areas:

  • Clear communication
  • Examples and communication
  • Activities for student engagement
  • Challenges for students to think critically
  • Activities to assess understanding
  • Student to student interaction
  • Links to previously learned concepts
  • Use of visual and handouts
  • Requirement of students to be active
Final purpose The form is only a guide suggested by the university’s teaching center. Departments use it at their discretion.

Peer observation of teaching is expected by departments and it is part of the promotion process.

Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health

Process used Observation
Tool used Kent State College of Public Health – evaluation form
Domains assessed as part of the observation 5 point Likert scale (from excellent to poor)

  • Assesses number of students present
  • Overall experience
  • Assessment of material on overall level of difficulty and workload
  • Assessment review
  • Physical conditions of room
  • Student respect
  • Questions with ratings on strongly agree to strongly disagree, based on the type of class (lecture, pbl, or Socratic/discussion-based)
  • Knowledge of the class
  • Narrative section for the observer
Final purpose N/S

University of Maryland School of Public Health

Process used Process:

1. Pre-class meeting – course goals, strategies, and questions to get feedback on

2. Classroom – at least one, but more if it has multiple components observation

3. Post-observation meeting – discussion to enhance teaching effectiveness student engagement, course efficiency, list of questions to guide the discussion (around strengths and weaknesses)

4. Synthesis and documentation both the instructor and the observer can prepare a summary to reflect on the three meetings

Tool used Peer Teaching Observation Guide
Domains assessed as part of the observation Class observation ranked in Likert scale (yes, mostly, somewhat, no)

  • Logistics
  • Start and end on time
  • Well prepared
  • Class was used effectively
  • The student experience
  • Students were actively engaged in class
  • Questions were addressed
  • Positive environment
  • Tools were used effectively
Final purpose The Peer Teaching Observation Guide is only a guide for evaluation of teaching.

Peer observation  of teaching is a requirement for promotion/APT.

University of Miami Department of Public Health Sciences

Process used Observation, post-observation meeting, written summary
Tool used Teaching Observation Form
Domains assessed as part of the observation 6 point Likert scale (improvement necessary, effective, highly effective)

  • Lecture-based
  • Introduction – clear objectives stated, assessment of needs, gained attention and motivation
  • Body of lecture – clear organization, instructional material, and methods, use of transitions
  • Conclusion
  • Teacher dynamics – effective communication, engagement, encouraged further learning, well-prepared
  • Strengths and recommendations
Final purpose For teaching development only

Stony Brook University Program in Public Health (no form provided)

Process used 1. Student self-assessment of competency attainment (pre-course vs. post-course assessment)

2. Student end-of-semester course evaluation data

3. Student focus group data at the end of each course

4. Program director observation of teaching

5. Curriculum committee review of data collected (1-4 above)

Tool used N/S
Domains assessed as part of the observation Course content (meeting competencies)

  • Instructor presentation style and effectiveness
  • Student perceptions of adequacy of course content/materials in regards to competencies
  • Instructor-student interactions
  • Student behaviors
Final purpose 1. Data/feedback are shared with instructors to enhance/improve teaching

2. Program Director uses data to formulate comments about teaching for faculty promotion support letter

*N/S: not specified

Compiled by Viviana E. Horigian, M.D. University of Miami, Department of Public Health Sciences. Updated 4/15/2019