Reflection on Cosh (1998) – Adams Academy
Jill Cosh (1998) Peer Observation in Higher Education ‐‐ A Reflective Approach, Innovations in Education and Training International, 35:2, 171-176.
This article has blown my mind. In most instances, peer observation is used as an evaluative tool, which puts power and judgement in the hands of colleagues. In some situations, this can work well. In some, it just becomes a collective way for faculty to give (perhaps unworthy) praise of each other, and in some, it is detrimental to collegiality and function of a department or unit.
In this article, though, Cosh flips the entire process. Instead of the teaching instructor being the one evaluated, the observer uses the observation period as a tool for self-reflection. S/he watches the teaching practices of others in order to self-evaluate. Essentially, use the experiences of others to assess yourself. It’s brilliant. A) It (mostly) removes the idea of evaluation or judgement from the picture. B) It requires individuals to be responsible for their own professional development, which should lead to discussions of teaching practice. If a well thought out self-reflection is required by the department as part of an annual review, I could see that faculty who do not place teaching as a top priority (no judgement here – there are many factors involved in setting job responsibilities for faculty) might be more likely to begin conversations with other about teaching, which would be a success in any form.
I love this idea, and I have already brought it up to one departmental group that is currently wrestling with how to structure peer observations. It would be so exciting to see this type of self-reflection exercise become part of our annual review process.