Evaluating teaching

Aims of evaluating teaching

Evaluating teaching has two main aims:

  • Performance management
  • The development of practice

This guidance focuses solely on evaluating teaching as a means of developing teaching practice.

Teaching observations

If you would like a member of the Eden Centre to come and observe your teaching and provide developmental feedback, please contact your departmental advisers.

You may also want to participate in a peer observation scheme. Peer observation of teaching is a structured and effective pedagogical tool that can help improve the quality of teaching in higher education institutions (Henry & Oliver, 2012). Through observing others and, in turn, being observed, implicit aspects of teaching practice can be made explicit; can be examined, and areas in need of refinement can be identified.

Why engage in peer observations?

Everyone who teaches in higher education has their own approach to teaching. Many individuals come to teaching with (consciously or subconsciously) pre-formed ideas about how their subject should be taught and learned (Gordon & Debus, 2002). These ideas may have happened through their own studies, through practical experiences, or through reflection.

Peer observation of teaching supports teachers to be more objective about their practice through having a supportive colleague offer an informed insight into what they do (and don’t do).

Peer observation seeks to be formative in that it offers guidance on areas for development. Both the observer and the person being observed benefit. The observer is not the judge – rather their role is to be a critical friend who identifies areas of strength and areas for further development so that they can work with the person being observed to develop mutually agreed action points that can be implemented in the short, medium and long term.

The person being observed benefits as they are given specific feedback on how to develop their practice and the person doing the observation benefits as they become more skilled at examining the factors that make up successful teaching and learning experiences. Adopting a collegial approach to peer observation, insights and the sharing of ideas for improvement can give the observer and the observed a powerful opportunity to enhance the quality of their teaching (Wingrove et al., 2018).

The principles of peer observation

Peer observation of teaching is underpinned by a number of principles:

  • Everyone involved is an equal partner
  • The process is transparent
  • The focus is on development
  • Dialogue is integral to the process
  • The peer observation process should be mutually beneficial
  • The focus of the observation should be agreed beforehand
  • The significance of the learning context
  • There should be a shared ownership of the process
  • Peers should not position themselves as expert educators
  • Student learning must not be negatively affected by the observation process

Underpinning the formative peer observation process is the importance of dialogue. Peers should aim to have discussions before and after the observation and both partners should seek to find specific areas that can be developed. The person being observed is not the only one who will benefit from the process – the observer may also wish to reflect upon the observation and identify areas to develop in their own teaching practice. During discussions or in setting action plans, there is no point in dwelling on things that cannot be changed (for example the curriculum, the environment, the student body). Instead the focus should be on identifying things that can be changed in the short, medium and long term.

Models for peer observation

Peer observation of teaching can happen in a number of ways. Two colleagues could simply get together to work as a self-augmenting pair. They could agree on the process between themselves and keep their feedback and the actions contained within their pair.

Peers might also work as a small group, with each group member observing all other group members. This model widens the scope of input, helps develop a supportive network and different individuals will be able to identify different aspects of teaching practice.

When working in pairs or in small groups the peers might come from the same department, but they could just as easily come from different departments. Working with peers from the same department means that there is a level of shared understanding from the start and colleagues will have relatively easy access to one another. The process might, however, become rather insular with certain areas being over-examined and certain areas being under-examined. If the peers are from different departments they are more likely to focus on the process of teaching rather than the content.

Peer observation may also be done at a whole-department level where a carousel approach is used and each person observes and feeds back to the next person in the system. This method is often more structured as, generally, the more people involved, the more organised the system needs to be and the less personal it becomes. The real benefit of working at department level is that it gives status and kudos to the activity and this can often means that resources for development are more likely to be attained.

Recording and reflecting

The method used for recording the observation should be decided on by the participants. You may choose to adopt a free writing approach. This approach, however, can sometimes lead the observer to focus on the chronology of the session rather than certain teaching/learning activities that might be revisited a number of times.

We have produced three pro-formas that support the three stages of the peer observation process – pre-observation meeting, the observation itself and post-observation reflection. You may adapt these pro-formas to suit your own teaching context. If you do adapt the pro-formas, we would appreciate you sending the revised versions to us (via eden@lse.ac.uk) so that we can share developing practice in this area.

You may also find it useful to look at a pro-forma developed by the EC220 and EC221 course team.


Formative teaching evaluation by students

The School surveys students about their teaching experience in the Michaelmas and Lent Terms. The surveys provide an opportunity for students to share their opinion of the courses they have taken and to inform the School of what works well and of areas where improvements can be made.

In developmental terms, however, you may find it useful to ask students for feedback during the term, which can be acted on more immediately. The students’ feedback can also be used as a basis for further discussions with the students about their courses. You can tell students about changes that will be made as a result of their feedback and give them some idea of timescale. If students request changes or highlight issues that, for whatever reason, cannot be changed you can explain to them why that might be and, if appropriate, suggest alternatives.

We have developed reusable templates using the Forms app, which is part of Office 365 for the following student feedback activities: 

When you click on any of the links to the templates above you will see the message ‘Duplicate this form and start to use it as your own’. Once you have duplicated the template you will be able to edit it if you chose to. Your copy will then be saved in your My Forms app, which can be accessed via forms.office.com. To share with your students, click on the ‘share’ button and use the ‘send and collect responses’ option. 


Gordon, C. & Debus, R. (2002) Developing deep learning approaches and personal teaching efficacy within a preservice teacher education context, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 72(4), pp.483-511 https://doi-org.gate3.library.lse.ac.uk/10.1348/00070990260377488

Henry, G.D & Oliver, G.R. (2012) Seeing is believing: The benefits of peer observation, Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(1), article 7. Online https://ro.uow.edu.au/jutlp/vol9/iss1/7/, Accessed on 3rd December 2018

Wingrove,D., Hammersley-Fletcher, L., Clarke, A. and Chester, A. (2018) Leading developmental peer observation of teaching in higher education: perspectives from Australia and England, British Journal of Educational Studies, 66 (3), pp.365 – 381. https://doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2017.1336201