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Mar 2004  Vol. 8   No. 1  
........   TEACHING EVALUATION   ........
Enhancing Teaching and Learning through Developmental Peer Observation (DPO)
Singh Bilveer, Associate Professor
Department of Political Science

Introduction

As NUS strives to be a world-class university, its research and teaching components are invariably significant performance benchmarks. Given that quality teaching is highly valued in universities, adopting the Developmental Peer Observation (DPO) to review teachers’ performance could further expand teachers’ teaching skills and capabilities. While the existing Peer Review and Teaching Evaluation Report have its place in the assessment of a staff’s teaching in NUS, it is also propitious that DPO be introduced for teaching development as well.

What is Developmental Peer Observation (DPO)?

Broadly speaking, DPO is a process whereby a third party observes and provides feedback on teaching and learning support taking place in a university. Its purposes are to strengthen and enhance the quality of teaching and learning by providing feedback to the staff observed, to provide opportunities for staff to learn from each other and to assist with staff development. The most critical guiding principles of DPO are developmental, not judgemental.

Reasons for DPO

DPO is well regarded because it helps to:

  • Identify a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses (especially how the teacher designs classroom activities to promote teacher-student interactions) to improve one’s teaching

  • Prepare an individual for external evaluation

  • Gather evidence on the individual’s teaching quality for personal and departmental benchmarking purposes

  • Create a forum for discussion of the selection and structure of teaching activities

Benefits of DPO

The benefits of observing go both ways; not only do the observed teachers receive feedback on their teaching, those doing the observation are also exposed to an increased number of teaching approaches. In addition, DPO offers other advantages such as:

  • Permitting a teacher to reflect on his/her own practices

  • Raising the level of discussion about teaching and learning methodology

  • Providing triangulation for teacher vis-à-vis other evaluation (e.g. student feedback)

  • Demonstrating to students the department’s concern with improving teaching skills

  • Identifying staff developmental needs

  • Contributing to effective departmental quality review

  • Enabling teaching staff to share best practices and concerns

Challenges of DPO

DPO, like any other instrument of assessment, has its limits. In order to reap the above-mentioned benefits, the following are some possible areas of concern that need to be considered:

  • Observers must be able to put themselves in the ‘shoes’ of the observed to understand and appreciate his/her teaching

  • Observers (notwithstanding the pre-observation dialogue) have no way of judging whether the lesson observed is a typical, experimental or special case activity

  • Observed should not feel victimised regardless of his/her performance

Guidelines and proposed design for the DPO process

Table 1 shows a summary of the timing, guidelines and proposed design for the DPO process. The total time required to complete a full DPO process (i.e. pre-observation dialogue, observation, post-observation dialogue and report and action plan writing) would take about four to six hours. With regard to the frequency of observation, a minimum of one observation per semester, initiated by the observed, should suffice.

When
Proposed Design
Guidelines
Beginning of semester

  Pre-Observation Dialogue
  (Pre-conferencing)

  Identify the Observers and Observed
During semester

   Observation

  What Criteria to use for observation?

Close of semester

  *Post-observation Dialogue
  (Post-conferencing)

  What should happen as a
  consequence of observation?

  • The observed prepares a post-observation action plan to consolidate teaching method and focus on the AFIs
* Whether the feedback is positive or negative, strict confidentiality should be maintained


Conclusion

DPO has great potential and can become a useful tool for staff development in any institution which highly regards qualitative teaching. If implemented properly in spirit and letter, the net benefits of DPO for the students, staff and university are obvious in this win-win formula.

 

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