Feedback on Teaching Resource

Why Engage in Feedback on Teaching?

As an instructional staff member – experienced or new – you can benefit from meaningful feedback on your teaching from another instructor. Feedback is fundamental to growth and development as a professional. As fellow educators, we grow together when we build a strong, interdisciplinary community of engaged instructors across campus.

Depending on your goals, feedback can be:

  • one-way or two-way with reciprocal observation and visits to your teaching environments;
  • informal and formative or formal and summative; and/or
  • a one-time observation or continuing dialogue with a teaching colleague.

While the primary goal of feedback on teaching is to facilitate formative feedback, some may seek summative feedback as well for the purposes of tenure, promotion or a teaching portfolio. Find more information on the difference between formative and summative feedback.

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How will you benefit from receiving feedback?

  • Reflect on your teaching in a relaxed, supportive way
  • Receive thoughtful guidance from a peer
  • Identify possible ways to improve student learning
  • Connect and engage with others in the campus teaching and learning community

How will you benefit from giving feedback?

  • Enhance your knowledge of different teaching approaches and your perspective on student learning through observing your colleague’s learning environment
  • Connect and engage with others in the campus teaching and learning community

Feedback on Teaching Steps

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Step 1: Connect with a peer observer

If you do not already have a peer observer, you can visit the Feedback on Teaching Canvas Course to connect with a Teaching Academy Peer Observer and to learn more about the process. Any UW-Madison instructional staff member and their peer observer are free to use this resource.

Step 2: Discuss observation goals and schedule an observation visit

The following are possible questions for instructors to reflect on and discuss with their peer observer:

  1. What are your teaching and learning goals for students?
  2. What is the format of your course? What are your course expectations for students?
  3. What would you like the focus of the observation to be?
  4. Will feedback be primarily formative or summative? Formative feedback on teaching allows instructors to make improvements on an ongoing basis. Summative feedback on teaching is evaluative and may be used for tenure or promotion purposes at the request of the instructor.

After discussing the observation goals, select a feedback strategy(ies), and schedule a time for an observation visit.

Step 3: Convene observation of the learning environment

  • The peer observer should arrive early and use the selected observation activity(ies) that were discussed at the previous meeting.
  • At the end of the observation, the observer should provide initial feedback, and engage in a brief discussion following the class session, if possible.
  • Then confirm a time for a post-visit conversation.

Step 4: Meet for a post-visit discussion

  • Prior to the post-observation meeting, the peer observer should prepare a written set of points and questions from the observation to discuss with the instructor. The points should be specific and focused on concrete examples.
  • Rather than delivering a laundry list, the observer should limit feedback to a manageable number of points (perhaps 2-3) and discuss suggestions for improvement. Provide feedback in an outline or written format as agreed upon.
  • The instructional staff member should make notes during the meeting that could be helpful if their peer observer calls upon them later for another observation, or for a letter for their professional file.

Step 5: Reflect on goals and plan next steps

Decide what actions, if any, you will take based on the feedback, and consider next steps (explore a different observation tool, converse again with your peer observer, etc.).

Feedback Strategies

Choose from the following feedback strategies to guide your peer observation and feedback. Prior to the observation, the instructional staff member and observer should discuss what aspects of teaching the instructor would most like to emphasize and how the feedback should be collected. The descriptions are intended to guide participants in choosing the activity that best suits their objectives. Download a PDF of templates for each of the strategies.

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Open-Ended Observation

Open-ended observation provides the opportunity to provide open-ended feedback to the instructor. There are no specific guidelines or instructions for the observer. Rather, the observer provides their overall thoughts. It is recommended that the instructor and observer meet beforehand to discuss what the instructor is looking for with regard to the open observation. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Focus on Learner-Centered, Active Learning and Reflective Practice

This strategy emphasizes three specific pedagogies for course instruction: learner-centered, active learning and reflective practice. The observer is provided with instructor behaviors associated with each pedagogy. The behaviors are general, so they can be applied to a variety of scenarios such as lecturing, group work and open discussion. The pedagogies can be analyzed together or separately. The instructor and observer should discuss before the observation which pedagogies should be covered. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Classroom Schematic Drawing

Classroom schematic drawing is designed to analyze physical classroom dynamics. The observer should provide a rough image of how the classroom is arranged, coupled with comments describing the varying positions of the instructor and students, along with how these positions appear to influence the instruction and student participation. The scope and detail of the comments can be decided by the instructor and observer. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Focus on Group Behavior

This strategy provides a list of fourteen instructor behaviors commonly associated with effective group-work. It is important to note that these are actions the instructor takes, not the students themselves. The observer should record which behaviors the instructor engages in and describe how effective each measure appears to be. The instructor and observer can discuss beforehand if the instructor should knowingly seek to fulfill the behaviors, or if the observation should be “blind,” so that the instructor’s normal teaching style can be weighed against the formal criteria. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Question-Driven Observation

Question-driven observation provides a list of longer-term observation questions for the observer that cover most elements of course instruction, including the content of the syllabus, efficacy of grading and presentation of material. The activity also provides the opportunity to provide constructive criticism on delivery methods, student interactions, types of material presented and distributed, and grading and evaluation methods. This activity is ideal for instructors who desire a longer-term observation structured around a clear set of questions and expectations. Note: not all of the questions must be addressed, especially if they do not pertain to the present observation. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Effective Lecturing

Effective lecturing provides a list of nineteen instructor behaviors commonly associated with effective lecturing. The criteria covers both the presentation material and the speaking characteristics of the instructor. The observer should record which behaviors the instructor engages in and describe how effective each measure appears to be. The instructor and observer can discuss beforehand if the instructor should knowingly seek to fulfill the behaviors, or if the observation should be “blind,” so that the instructor’s normal teaching style can be weighed against the formal criteria. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Structured Class Session Observation Protocol

Structured class session observation protocol presents a check-list of potential behaviors that both students and instructors could possibly engage in throughout a course period. The observer records when students or the instructor engage in certain behaviors and for how many minutes the behavior lasts. This activity is ideal for instructors interested in knowing which types of student engagement are most common in their learning environment, both in their occurrence and time taken. Instructors using this activity will leave the program with a good sense for how they and their students use instruction time. Room is left for observers to provide general comments. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID)

Small group instructional diagnosis (SGID) gathers feedback directly from an instructor’s students. Midway through the semester, the observer engages in a dialogue with the instructor’s students during the last 15 minutes of observation (the instructor will have left the learning environment at this point). Students are invited to speak openly and honestly, in more depth than a normal course evaluation would provide. The observer compiles a report from the dialogue and discusses the information with the instructor. The instructor should then hold a dialogue with their students to discuss the feedback and what changes will or will not be made in response, along with appropriate justification for each (non)change. The observer and instructor should discuss areas in which feedback would be particularly welcomed prior to the observation. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Instructional Materials

This strategy provides a structured framework by which the observer can evaluate the instructional material used in the course. This activity evaluates how well the materials complement the course’s learning goals, activities and community. The clear expectations behind each evaluation facilitate repeated observations and incentivize improvement. The evaluation also provides space for general feedback on the instructional materials used. This activity can easily be used in conjunction with the following “Implementation” activity, which evaluates the implementation of instructional materials. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

Implementation

This strategy provides a structured framework by which the observer can evaluate how instructional materials are implemented. The activity evaluates how well the implementation compliments student engagement, student monitoring and learning community. The clear expectations behind each evaluation facilitate repeated observations and incentivize improvement. The evaluation also provides space for general feedback on the implementation of the materials used, and can easily be used in conjunction with the “Instructional Materials” activity noted above. Download a PDF template for this strategy.

More About the Feedback on Teaching Resource

The Feedback on Teaching resource was created by members of the UW-Madison Teaching Academy with roots tracing back to 2012. In 2020, the Teaching Academy partnered with the Collaborative for Advancing Learning and Teaching to continue to grow the resource. Presently, the resource is an evolving campus-wide initiative that is constantly striving to expand its reach. Thank you to the founders and early adopters including Janet Batzli, Mo Bischof, Chris Dakes, I-Pang Fu, Sarah Hagedon, Erica Halverson,  Jamie Henke, Cecilia Klingele, Jenn Kowalkowski, Beth Martin, John Martin, Sarah Mason, Andrew McWard, Sarah Miller, Megan Schmid, Adrian Treves, Sue Wenker, and other dedicated volunteers.