Skip to Content

Policy and Procedures for Peer Observation of Teaching


1 Under the terms of this policy ‘staff’ are defined as all persons engaged by Xi’an Jiaotong- Liverpool University (hereinafter ‘XJTLU’ or ‘the University’) to deliver teaching or instruction in any element of a credit-bearing programme. This includes but is not limited to teaching assistants, part-time and full-time faculty members and practitioner teachers such as industry professionals.

2 Peer observation of teaching is an established academic quality enhancement process within Higher Education. Please refer to Appendix 1 (below) for the XJTLU Peer Observation Model.

3 Peer review observation is used as one way of evaluating teaching delivery rather than teaching content. Observation also allows, facilitates and encourages department, school and university level reflection and discussion on a wider range of teaching practices and issues, including but not exclusively: links to curriculum design, VLE1 learning activities, use of tutorials, student evaluations and feedback, as well as student support and guidance work. This may include teacher reflective techniques, as well as methods for teaching in an international and multi-cultural context. It is expected that each Department/School/Centre develops and operates a peer observation scheme annually for all teaching staff. Peer observation can also be carried out at the school level.

4 It should be noted that observation can look at any pedagogical practice between a teacher and students, so it not only includes lectures and seminars, but can also encompass tutorials, feedback sessions and the like. The operative concept is that there is pedagogical practice through interaction with learners that can be observed.

5 The intention of the peer observation scheme is to allow teaching staff to explore and develop their understanding of student learning and to improve the student experience of study at XJTLU. Peer observation is thus an academic quality enhancement mechanism that contributes to raising the profile of learning and teaching and scholarship. Specifically, the peer observation at XJTLU aims to:

a) promote a culture in which good teaching is valued and to enhance teaching quality at the point of delivery by encouraging reflection on practice;

b) provide a supportive and constructive framework for the University to review, reflect upon and improve the quality of its teaching;

c) enhance the quality of teaching by providing an effective framework for the identification and dissemination of good teaching practice;

d) enhance the quality of teaching by identifying staff development needs, and to inform the University in addressing those needs;

e) ensure that all members of staff undergoing peer observation of teaching are treated in a fair and consistent manner.

6 The Peer Observation of Teaching process operates at three levels:

a) Individual - Peer observation is a constructive, developmental process which focuses on the personal and professional development of teaching staff; it is reflective and encourages peer discussion and reflective practice. It is independent of formal Personal Development Review (PDR) and any probationary processes that may be in place, but individuals can use the outcome of any peer observation of their teaching to make an application for promotion.

b) Academic Units – The role of the Academic Units in peer observation is to extend the value and impact of individual professional teaching conversations between individuals by encouraging discussion on the purposes and outcomes of peer observation.

c) University- Peer observation of good practice and good teaching practice identified during peer observation will be captured by the Educational Development Unit of the Institute of Leadership and Education Advanced Development (EDU ILEAD). Dissemination will be through the development of a process that can be recognized and extended within the University/Department/School/Centre, through activities and events such as the ILEAD website, training sessions, Learning and Teaching Colloquium, and the award of teaching prizes.

7 All staff are expected to:

a) take part in the peer observation process at least annually as both a peer observer and an observee reviewee. An exception is Head of Departments (HoDs), who should only be an observee to avoid any confusion with performance related observations;

b) contribute to the development of peer observation as a process in order to improve the student learning experience;

c) be sensitive to the expectation of confidentiality of the discussions between observer and observee;

d) share examples of good practice with the wider University.


8 The HoD should appoint a Peer Observation Coordinator who will be responsible for operating the peer observation procedure for the Department/School/Centre each academic year, and for liaison within the school;

9 All peer observers will be given instructions on best practice when carrying out a review an observation. The Peer Observation Coordinator should be given guidance by EDU ILEAD; and then they will be responsible, supported by the HoD or designate, for disseminating this within theirAcademic Units;

10 Every member of staff should normally be observed at least once a year and ideally once a semester. New members of staff should be peer observed in the first semester of their teaching. In cases where staff development needs have been identified, the observer and observee may agree to carry out a further observation session after consultation with the HoD or designate;

11 For new staff, the Peer Observation Coordinator within each department must explain the purpose of peer observation and how it is conducted in XJTLU.

12 In arranging peer observations, observers should bear in mind the extent to which an observed session contributes to successful delivery of the learning outcomes specified for the module in question.

13 The Peer Observation Coordinator in each department is responsible for pairing observers with observees. They should normally arrange for the pairings for observation to change for consecutive observations. The peer observation period will be the academic year, and the programme for observations would be set in the beginning of the first semester;

14 Peer observation will normally involve a single observer observing one teaching session. Good practice would be for an observer to be observed by someone different to whom they have observed; the process should be viewed as peer observation rather than pair observation. Another alternative is for the Peer Observation Coordinator to institute a structure of triads, so each staff member is observed twice and performs two observations. The three triad members would meet for a pre-observation meeting, and again for a post-observation meeting, so that the extra time commitment is only an hour. The rationale for triads is to create a more general context about teaching in a department or school, rather than focus on individual practice.

Before the observation:

15 The observer/observee should establish a mutually agreed time for the observation to take place, which should be at least two weeks prior to the observation.

16 Each observee will need to discuss in advance with their observer areas of focus considered relevant to the observed session. The observee should complete the initial part of the observation/feedback form prior to this discussion, which will then inform the observation. This is a part of quality enhancement which will add value to the observation.

At the time of the observation:

17 The peer observer must arrive punctually for the teaching session selected for observation with the teacher. If the observer arrives too late for the start of the session, they should not carry out the observation but should arrange with the teacher to observe another session.

18 The observer should position themselves in the observed teaching session so as to intrude as little as is practicable. They should also refrain from participating in the session.

19 The observer should take care that students cannot see any notes made during the session.

20 The observer must use the observation/feedback form provided in Appendix 4, which must be completed at the end of the session or as soon as possible thereafter.

21 Immediately following the session, the observer should normally spend some time with the teacher providing verbal feedback. It is important that the verbal comments should be consistent with those that eventually appear on the report form.

After the observation:

22 The peer observer and observee should complete the summary form provided in Appendix 2, which will be forwarded to the HoD or designate for appropriate action. The HoD or designate might also identify any strategic issues raised in respect of learning and teaching development and may need to identify resources and/or opportunities to support the development of individual members of staff following the peer observation review.

23 Immediately following the conclusion of the peer observation exercise for the academic year, the Peer Observation Coordinator should meet with the HoD or designate to discuss the strategic/best practice aspects of the observations undertaken. There should then be wider circulation within the School/Department/Centre of the matters raised within the Peer Observation Group.

24 Good practice identified during peer observation should be anonymised, summarised and referred by the HoD or designate to the relevant Departmental Learning and Teaching Committee (DLTC) and to EDU ILEAD for dissemination where appropriate, using the form provided in Appendix 3.

25 The Departmental Peer Observation Coordinator should prepare an annual summary of peer observation activity using the form in Appendix 5, for submission, after DLTC approval, to LTC in Semester 1 of each academic year.



1. XJTLU Peer Observation Model (see below)
2. Summary Form – Feedback to HOD (separate document)
3. Summary Form – Feedback to ILEAD (separate document)
4. Feedback for Peer Observation (separate document)
5. Summary report to LTC (separate document)
6. Guidelines on Peer Observation Triads

(Last Review Date: 7 June 2021)

Appendix 1 – XJTLU Peer Observation Model


XJTLU follows a collaborative model of peer observation which encourages debate and dialogue and development of individual, department and university level teaching practices.


 Table 1: Peer Review of Teaching (Gosling 2005:14)





Collaborative Model

Who does it to whom? (peer relationship)

Teaching staff observe each other.


Improving teaching through dialogue; self and mutual reflection.


Analysis, reflection, discussion, wider experience of teaching methods.

Status of evidence

Peer shared perceptions.

Relationship of reviewer to reviewee

Equality/ mutuality.


Between reviewer and the reviewee - could be shared with a learning set.


All involved in supporting student learning.


Non-judgmental, reflective feedback.

What is observed?

Teaching performance, class, learning materials.

Who benefits?

Mutual between peers.

Conditions for success

A culture in which teaching is valued and discussed.


Complacency, conservatism, unfocused.



Copyright © 2006 - 2022 Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University      苏ICP备07016150号-1      京公网安备 11010102002019号