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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 2 - Faculty and Academics
Previous Publication Date: September 17, 2015
Previous Publication Date: January 8, 2021
Responsible Executive: VP for Academic Affairs


2.20 Peer Observation of Teaching


I. POLICY STATEMENT


This policy supports The University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) vision of providing access to educational excellence to its students. It recognizes the essential contribution of its faculty members to the quality of students’ education and learning experiences and supports faculty development in all aspects of instruction.


II. RATIONALE


This policy addresses the requirement from the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the University of Texas System (UT System) to incorporate and implement peer observation of teaching recommendations into UT System university policies. It sets forth the processes for peer observation of teaching. The goals of the peer observation process are to improve teaching and student learning, and to evaluate faculty teaching. Thus, the outcome of the faculty peer observation process should be a reflective summary describing any steps taken or changes made towards the enhancement of teaching and improvement of student learning.


III. SCOPE


This policy applies to all full time faculty at UTSA holding any of the following faculty appointments: Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Professor in Practice, Associate Professor in Practice, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and Lecturer III. The Chair of each department determines applicability of this policy to Faculty Members holding the titles of Lecturer I, Lecturer II, and Assistant Professor in Practice. The policy also applies to individuals holding the above titles who hold administrative appointments of 60% or less.


IV. WEBSITE ADDRESS FOR THIS POLICY


http://www.utsa.edu/hop/chapter2/2.20.html


V. RELATED STATUTES, POLICIES, REQUIREMENTS OR STANDARDS


UTSA or UT System Policies or the Board of Regents' Rules & Regulations

  1. UT System Polices for Evaluating Faculty: Recommendations for Incorporating Student and Peer Reviews in the Faculty Evaluation Process
  2. UTSA Handbook of Operating Procedures (HOP) policy 2.22, Comprehensive Periodic Evaluation of Tenured Faculty
  3. UTSA HOP policy 2.02, Faculty Appointments and Titles

VI. CONTACTS


If you have any questions about HOP policy 2.20, Peer Observation of Teaching, please contact the following office:

The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs (Provost)
210-458-4110


VII. DEFINITIONS


Peer Observer: Member of the faculty who observes and provides feedback to Faculty Member being observed.

Faculty Member: A Faculty Member is any individual to whom this policy applies as defined above in Section III.

Department Faculty: For purposes of this policy, Department Faculty includes all full-time voting members of the department.

Department Guidelines: Guidelines created by individual departments for the peer observation process within the department. These guidelines, which should be developed by Department Faculty and approved by a majority of the voting members of the Department Faculty, should include specific steps and requirements for the peer observation process as outlined in Section IX. Departmental policies regarding peer observation should be posted in an online location accessible to all faculty (e.g., in the department common folder).


VIII. RESPONSIBILITIES


  1. Department Faculty: Develops and approves Department Guidelines for the peer observation process within that department.
  2. Faculty Member
    1. Follows their department's Department Guidelines for peer observation based on academic title and teaching responsibilities.
    2. Identifies possible Peer Observers for approval from Department Chair.
    3. Works with Department Chair in advance of the start of the term to establish deadlines for the peer observation process. The table located below in Section IX.F provides a suggested timeline for the observation process during a long semester.
    4. Provides Department Chair with Faculty Member Report including information detailed in Section IX.D.3.a-f. following peer observation.
  3. Peer Observer
    1. Meets with Faculty Member prior to classroom observation to discuss syllabi and other teaching materials.
    2. Provides reasonable flexibility in determining a mutually agreed upon date for observation and any follow-up meetings as specified by Department Guidelines.
    3. Observes Faculty Member in the classroom.
    4. Provides Peer Observer report to both Department Chair and Faculty Member following peer observation. Additional feedback to the Faculty Member should follow Department Guidelines.
  4. Department Chair
    1. Ensures that approved Department Guidelines are posted in an online location accessible to all faculty covered by this policy.
    2. Notifies to-be-observed Faculty Member of upcoming observation and directs Faculty Member to the Department Guidelines.
    3. Assists Faculty Member in identifying possible Peer Observers and makes the final selection of Peer Observer(s).
    4. Files Faculty Member and Peer Observer reports within department files.

IX. PROCEDURES


  1. General Provisions
    1. Purpose of Peer Observation
      1. Ensure that courses cover material at an appropriate level.
      2. Foster a culture of teaching excellence through collegial feedback.
      3. Foster professionalism in teaching.
    2. Process of Peer Observation
      Specific Department Guidelines should be established within the general guidelines provided in this policy.
  2. Peer Observation Frequency
    1. Frequency of Peer Observation
      1. All cases put forward for promotion and/or tenure should include Peer Observer and Faculty Member Reports as evidence of peer observation.
      2. Assisstant Professors must be observed once prior to third year review and one additional time prior to tenure evaluation. However, Faculty Members may request additional observation.
      3. Associate Professors and Professors should be observed once during each Comprehensive Periodic Evaluation review cycle as defined in HOP policy 2.22, Comprehensive Periodic Evaluation of Tenured Faculty, unless the Faculty Member requests additional observation.
      4. Faculty Members who are full time and hold the rank of Lecturer I, Lecturer II, Lecturer III, or Assistant Professor in Practice shall be observed at the discretion of the Department Chair. However, Faculty Members at these ranks with renewed appointments shall be reviewed at least every three years. Faculty Members in these ranks who are part time or hold non-continuous appointments shall be observed at the discretion of the Department Chair.
      5. Faculty Members with the rank of Lecturer III, Senior Lecturer, Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor in Practice, or Professor in Practice shall be observed once during each period of appointment.
    2. Exceptions
      Any variation from the frequency of observation must be approved by the Dean or other individual designated by the Provost to make such approvals.
  3. Development of Department Guidelines for Peer Observation
    1. The goal of the peer observation process is to improve teaching and learning and therefore the Department Guidelines should:
      1. Focus on faculty development,
      2. Specify how the peer observation process is to be conducted and should not specify what or how faculty will teach,
      3. Reflect the variety of instructional delivery methods and topics within each department and recognize that no single teaching method or approach is inherently superior to any other, and
      4. Protect against negative effects caused by conflict or disagreements between colleagues.
    2. Department Guidelines are to be developed through consensus of the Department Faculty and are to be approved by the Dean.
    3. Department Guidelines should specify:
      1. That the Peer Observer's report to the Faculty Member include suggestions and/or potential resources for improving teaching effectiveness, if applicable,
      2. Whether observatioin will consist of a single observation or multiple observations of the Faculty Member's class by the Peer Observer,
      3. Expectations for any pre- or post-observation meetings between the Peer Observer and the Faculty Member,
      4. That classroom observation will only occur with prior written notification to the Faculty Member being observed,
      5. Areas of performance to be included in the observation process for different course formats (e.g., lecture, lab, online, hybrid), and
      6. Whether either lecture and lab or both are to be included in observation for courses in which the Faculty Member conducts both the lecture and lab sections of the course.
    4. Department Guidelines should also make a clear distinction between what is required for the Peer Observer Report and what is required for the Faculty Member Report. Both of these reports are required to be included in the Faculty Member’s record.
    5. Department Guidelines should address qualifications, selection, and training of Peer Observer(s).
      1. Peer Observers can be, but are not required to be, members of the same department as the Faculty Member,
      2. The Faculty Member being observed should have input into who will serve as his or her Peer Observer, and
      3. Observations by non-faculty experts cannot substitute for peer observation.
  4. Peer Observation Process
    1. The peer observation process should take place during a long semester, unless otherwise approved by the Department Chair and Dean.
    2. The following timeline is recommended, but Department Guidelines can specify alternative timelines.
      1. At least two weeks prior to the first day of classes, the Department Chair:
        1. Notifies Faculty Member of upcoming peer observation process,
        2. Directs Faculty Member to online location of Department Guidelines, and
        3. Discusses process of selection of Peer Observer(s) with the Faculty Member.
      2. Selection of Peer Observer
        1. By the end of the second week of classes, the Faculty Member should contact possible Peer Observer(s) and submit the name(s) of those who agree to serve as Peer Observer(s) to the Department Chair.
        2. The Department must approve, deny, or suggest alternate possible Peer Observer(s) by the end of the third week of classes.
        3. In the event that the Department Chair is to be observed, the Dean shall approve, deny, or suggest alternate Peer Observer(s).
      3. Preliminary Meeting
        1. The Faculty Member and Peer Observer shall meet prior to the end of the fifth week of classes to review course syllabi and other materials as specified in Department Guidelines.
        2. The Faculty Member and Peer Observer shall establish date(s) for the peer observation(s) and, when required by Department Guidelines, a date for their post-observation meeting.
      4. Classroom Observation(s)
        1. In no cases should a classroom observation occur without prior notification to the Faculty Member.
        2. Classroom observation(s) should be concluded no later than the twelth week of classes, unless otherwise approved by the Department Chair.
      5. Peer Observer Report
        1. The Peer Observer should provide feedback to the Faculty Member within one week of the classroom observation or within one week of the final observation if Department Guidelines specify that multiple observations should take place.
        2. The Peer Observer should provide a written report to the Department Chair within one week of the classroom observation or within one week of the final observation if Department Guidelines specify that multiple observations should take place.
        3. The Peer Observer report should reinforce strengths in the Faculty Member's performance and should provide any recommendations for improvement. The same report can be presented to the Faculty Member's and Department Chair if specified in Department Guidelines.
      6. Faculty Member Report
        No later than the last day of the semester, the Faculty Member shall provide a report, to include information as specified in D.3 below, to the Department Chair.
    3. Faculty Member Report shall include the following:
      1. Name and signature of Faculty Member,
      2. Name and course number of observed class(s),
      3. Name of Peer Observer(s),
      4. Date of observation(s),
      5. Date of post-observation meeting, and
      6. A narrative written by the Faculty Member describing what the Faculty Member has learned from the peer observation process and any plans for improvement or development.
  5. Protection of Individual Rights: Nothing in this institutional peer observation policy, or its interpretation, will be interpreted or applied to infringe on academic freedom, due process, or other protected rights.
  6. Recommended Timeline

    Timeline

    Action

    Responsible Party

    At least two weeks prior
    to first day of class

    Notify Faculty Member who is to be observed and direct Faculty Member to Department Guidelines. Discuss with Faculty Member the process of selection of Peer Observer(s).

    Department Chair

    Prior to end of second
    week of semester

    Provide name(s) of possible Peer Observer(s) to the Department Chair.

    Faculty Member

    Prior to end of third
    week of semester

    Approve or deny possible Peer Observer(s).

    Department Chair (or Dean when Department Chair is to be observed)

    Prior to the end of fifth
    week of semester

    Meet to discuss teaching materials and set dates for observation and post-observation meeting(s).

    Faculty Member and Peer Observer

    Sixth through twelfth
    week of semester
    Classroom peer observation(s). Peer Observer
    Within one week of observation Post-observation meeting and Peer Observer Report submitted to Department Chair. Faculty Member and Peer Observer
    Upon receipt of Peer Observer Report Files Peer Observer Report in faculty record. Department Chair
    No later than last day
    of the semester
    Faculty Member Report provided to Department Chair. Faculty Member
    Upon receipt of Faculty Member Report Files Faculty Member Report in faculty record. Department Chair


X. SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR INITIAL IMPLEMENTATION


None


XI. FORMS AND TOOLS/ONLINE PROCESSES


Sample templates for Peer Observation are available at:

UTSA Office of the Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Support (coming soon)

UT System Polices for Evaluating Faculty: Recommendations for Incorporating Student and Peer Reviews in the Faculty Evaluation Process


XII. APPENDIX


None


XIII. Dates Approved/Amended


01-08-2021
09-17-2015