Peer Observation of Teaching

About Teaching Observations

The goal of peer observation of teaching is to foster a culture of teaching excellence and a community of instructors who share a passion for continuous improvement of learning outcomes. Peer observations provide a valuable means for documenting the quality of teaching beyond a quantitative rating system administered to students once during the term. By engaging in an intentional, intensive process of sharing materials, philosophies, and learning experiences, both instructors and observers can take time to reflect on teaching practices, collaborate to pursue the most effective strategies, and open new opportunities for growth and research in the scholarship of teaching and learning. 

Faculty members and programs may engage in teaching observations for a range of reasons:

  • Early, formative feedback from peers to ensure consistency with program standards and objectives.
  • Formative feedback in response to or preparation for undertaking an instructional innovation or for general continuous improvement advice.
  • Formative feedback at the program level to coordinate curriculum mapping, refine program learning outcomes, identify programmatic best practices, or meet other program goals. This is particularly useful in highly-sequenced programs where each course depends heavily upon its prerequisite courses for student success.
  • Summative assessment for use in a recommendation letter for promotion, tenure, reviews, grants, or awards. Some units require such observations annually.

In all cases, faculty members need a supportive and encouraging, yet fair, thorough, and accurate feedback on their teaching. However, observers should be aware of and sensitive to the different audiences for different forms of feedback and adjust the tone and scope of feedback accordingly.

Peer Observation Fellows

Faculty members who are recognized by their students, colleagues and academic leaders for the quality of their teaching are invited to serve as Center for Academic Innovation and Faculty Support Peer Observation Fellows. These faculty members bring experience with a range of instructional strategies to help faculty members who would like a sounding board for testing and generating ideas in their classes. In addition, they have a record of successful interactions with students and can help faculty members view their course from the students’ perspective to identify areas of excellence and areas that could be improved.

The inaugural cohort of USC Upstate Peer Observation Fellows is as follows:

  • Dr. Chunyu Ai, Associate Professor, Computer Science. Dr. Ai uses projects in her classes to help students understand and gain experience with databases, wireless networks, and network programming. She also supports students in preparing for careers, so they can see how their degree will help them in the future.
  • Ryan Crawford, Senior Instructor, Nursing. In her courses, Prof. Crawford stresses the importance of respecting the student as an adult learning and engaging them by fostering their own sense of responsibility for their learning. She uses recall and interleaving techniques to provide a solid foundation in prerequisite knowledge, then uses interactive learning strategies to help students thread the content together in hands-on activities.
  • Dr. Dawn Henderson, Assistant Professor, Nursing. Dr. Henderson teaches in both online and face-to-face nursing courses, employing active learning strategies to help students learn skills, concepts, and content knowledge necessary to prepare them to be strong critical thinkers in their future roles as nurses.
  • Kim Land, Instructor, Marketing. Prof. Land uses service learning and project-based learning strategies to introduce students to principles of marketing and marketing communication in ways that give real-world, hands-on experience that students really value. She offers courses both online and face-to-face.
  • Dr. Courtney McDonald, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice. Dr. McDonald teaches in both online and face-to-face environments. She is a proponent of the interactive lecture, engaging students with discussions while integrating new content and information throughout the course. She is also committed to high-impact practices in her teaching, including active learning and service learning courses, as well as new study abroad opportunities for criminal justice majors.
  • Dr. Scott Meek, Assistant Professor, Psychology. Dr. Meek motivates students in his psychology courses to make connections between course content and real-world issues in their everyday lives.
  • Dr. Colleen O’Brien, Professor, English. Dr. O’Brien uses active learning and student-centered pedagogy to create UDL-friendly and inclusive classroom environments that encourage student ownership of their learning. She creates scaffolded assignments with collaborative segments in class and flexible options for applying concepts and skills outside of class.
  • Dr. Joshua Ruppel, Associate Professor, Chemistry. As an Active Learning Fellow, Dr. Ruppel brings collaborative learning strategies to his organic chemistry and other STEM courses. By engaging students in practice and application, students engage with content more deeply and learn more fully.
  • Dr. Susan Ruppel, Professor, Psychology. Dr. Ruppel uses interactive lectures and discussions in her psychology classes. She creates a learning environment that welcomes student input and dialogue in exploring and learning course content.
  • Dr. Grover Walters, instructor, Information Management and Systems. In both face-to-face and online courses, Prof. Walters leverages technology to deliver content in interactive, engaging ways and to streamline instructional processes for grading and feedback. Prof. Walters emphasizes the importance of chunking and scaffolding course content and skills in order to achieve student success.

Observation Materials

To request a teaching observation, please contact academicinnovation@uscupstate.edu.