The College of Fine Arts expects that all tenure-track/tenured, practice series, and instruction series faculty members continually revise their teaching in courses to achieve excellence in undergraduate and graduate education, to improve student learning, and to keep course content and pedagogy current.
Feedback is an essential part of the teaching improvement process. There are two formal pathways for faculty to receive feedback to aid their revisions to their teaching that are also used in faculty evaluation processes: 1) student course evaluations filled out by students at the end of each semester and 2) peer teaching observations conducted periodically by peer faculty members.
The department chair or school director (or their delegate) is responsible for assigning peer teaching observation reports each year so that all faculty have at least the minimum number of peer observation reports required for faculty reviews as follows:
- Three are required for any promotion or tenure case.
- Two are required for any third-year review (aka mid-probationary review).
- One is required for any comprehensive periodic review (aka post-tenure review).
To ensure that these minimum numbers of peer observations are conducted, the department chair or school director should assign peer teaching observations following this table, using this template letter for the assignment, and should adjust this cadence if the faculty member pursues an accelerated promotion or elects prior years of service to count toward years in current rank at UT:
|Assistant-rank (TT or Prof-T)||Associate-rank (TT or Prof-T)||Associate-rank who self-identify as no longer pursuing promotion (TT or Prof-T)||Professor-rank (TT or Prof-T)|
|Every two years||Every two years||Every six years||Every six years|
- for assistant- and associate-rank faculty, the first observation should occur during their first year in rank,
- for tenured faculty, one of these observations should be assigned to occur the year before their Comprehensive Periodic Review,
- for tenure-track assistant professors, two observations need to be assigned to occur prior to the EC/BC reviewing their third year review file (for example, one during the first year and a second during the early part of their third academic year).
As part of their responsibility to ensure effective delivery of the curriculum, the department chair or school director may assign a peer teaching observation of any faculty member whenever they deem it necessary. Faculty members may also arrange for additional peer teaching observations on their own.
The University P&T guidelines require that all peer teaching observation reports completed in rank be included in the promotion dossier and that peer teaching observations used for a promotion case must take place during at least two different academic years in rank.
Individually, peer teaching observations provide peer assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and innovations in teaching a single class and offer developmental suggestions. This can counterbalance or comment on the data found in end of semester student course evaluations. When read together, multiple peer teaching observations in a single promotion case should ideally tell a story of change over time, providing historical context and highlighting notable development in teaching. One way to achieve this ideal is to review one course one semester, then review the same course again several semesters later and compare the two observation reports in the second written report. Another way is for the observer to review prior peer teaching observation reports or student course evaluations from similar courses in the past and compare those to the current year’s observation.
To help the observer produce a written report that meets this ideal of describing progress over time, the department/school staff will provide an observer assigned by the department chair/school director with the following on the observee:
- all syllabi on file in the department/school for current semester,
- all student course evaluations, including written comments, from the last two years,
- all previous peer teaching observation reports on file completed in current rank.
A faculty member of any rank and any discipline may observe a faculty member of any other rank and any other discipline.
It is the responsibility of the department chair or school director to ensure that no observer is assigned who is incapable of the task or who has either a conflict of interest or enough power difference with the observee as to cast doubt on whether the resulting peer teaching observation report is unbiased.
The observer should witness active teaching or facilitation of critique in a course, or other appropriate student learning experience, that is regularly offered by the observee, then have a conversation with the observee about that observation of their teaching. The observer must document both the observation and the conversation in a written report.
The written report must include everything required by the peer teaching observation reports section of the university’s promotion and tenure guidelines. Summarizing, peer teaching observation reports must include:
- Number and title of observed course(s)
- Date report was written
- Date(s) of classroom observation(s)
- Date the observation was discussed with the candidate
- Description of methods by which the instructor engages students in learning
- If the peer observation was conducted between spring 2020 and spring 2022, the observer must identify differences between teaching modality normally used and what was adopted due to COVID-19.
- Constructive advice to improve at least one aspect of the course (e.g., instructional interactions with students, assessment of student learning, content of materials, etc.)
- Candidate’s responsiveness to prior advice and identifying any specific improvement(s) that resulted from previous peer teaching observation reports
- Summary of end-of-semester course evaluations results, including overall course and instructor ratings and student response rates. Feedback to the candidate regarding common concerns raised by students on previous course evaluations and recommendations to address those concerns. Focus this commentary on results of prior offerings of the course that was observed, or similar courses.
- Name and signature of observer(s)
Each department and school may establish internal policies on peer teaching observation reports, as long as they are consistent with these college requirements.
Optional best practices and additional resources can be found here.
This policy was implemented on June 1, 2023 by agreement of the dean and the department chairs and school directors of the college.
Page last updated: 7/10/2023