Peer Observation Policy for the Graduate School Professional Skills Programme

Rationale
The Graduate School system of peer observation has been designed to enhance the quality of the training offered, to positively support all tutors in their own professional development, to complement existing internal quality assurance mechanisms and to be compatible with College policy on peer observation.

Background
Current internal quality assurance mechanisms include the observation of all new (or nearly new) workshops or new tutors by a member of the Postgraduate Professional Development Committee (PPDC). Following the observation, a discussion between the observed and the observer takes place. Any areas of concern can thus be addressed and followed up as necessary. This process assures that minimum threshold standards for the skills workshops are attained.

Furthermore, all workshops are evaluated by means of post-course questionnaires completed by participants. These are processed and monitored by the Graduate School staff and reported on an annual basis to the PPDC.    Those tutors who are regular teaching staff of Imperial College London may also participate in peer observation schemes in their home departments. 

Objectives:
The objectives of the peer observation policy are to:

  • encourage and motivate tutors to reflect on the effectiveness of their teaching and learning
  • inform tutors for their professional development and to inform planning for their development
  • help tutors explore ways of enhancing the student learning experience
  • foster discussion and dissemination of effective practice in teaching and learning
  • contribute to quality assurance and evaluation processes
  • to share good practice across Graduate School courses

Peer Observation Policy

How does the peer observation process work?

  1. At the start of each academic year, the Deputy Manager of the Graduate School will email all tutors due to be observed that session reminding them that it is the responsibility of each tutor to initiate and follow through the arrangements for being observed at intervals no greater than every three years.  The Deputy Manager of the Graduate School will also ask each tutor due to be observed for names of their suggested observers.
  2. The tutor nominates 2 or 3 suitable observers. An observer could be, for example, a departmental colleague at Imperial or a member of the PPDC.  The names of observers will be collated by the Deputy Manager of the Graduate School who will pass these to the Chair of PPDC for consideration.
  3. The Chair of the PPDC selects appropriate observers from this shortlist. The Deputy Manager of the Graduate School then confirms the name of the person who will be observing each tutor with the relevant tutor.  The tutor then arranges a suitable course, date and time to be observed with the observer directly, passing any course material to the observer in advance.
  4. In cases where trainers are not able to nominate observers, the Chair of PPDC selects an observer, often from among its members.
  5. The observer is given a copy of this document as well as the Graduate School Professional Skills Programme Peer Observation Guide-sheet” to assist with the observation of the workshop.
  6. The observer does not need to see the entire workshop  but should see enough to make a useful and informed evaluation, typically about 50 minutes, not less.
  7. The observer and observed meet to discuss the observation immediately after the workshop or as soon as possible thereafter.
  8. The observer should provide a copy of the completed guide-sheet to the observed party which should include motivational and/or formative feedback but should not be judgemental. 
  9. The observer submits a copy of the completed guide-sheet to the Deputy Manager of the Graduate School who will maintain the records.
  10. In the event that the observer recommends a follow-up observation, the tutor has the opportunity to arrange a further observation session (with the same or a different observer). This should normally take place at the next workshop facilitated by this tutor and certainly within 6 months of the first observation.
  11. In the event that a second observation is required then more formal feedback to the tutor is recommended.  Any serious concerns will be reported to the Chair of PPDC.  New tutors delivering existing courses will not be observed until the 3rd or 4th instance of course delivery.  This is to allow time to learn the course material and to make any individual adjustments to the course the new tutor deems to be appropriate.
  12. New tutors delivering new courses will be observed the first instance that the course is delivered.