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Cornell University

Peer Review of Teaching

Peer review of teaching is instrumental in maintaining the quality of teaching and learning in a department. It provides faculty members with an opportunity to receive and discuss feedback on their teaching. If conducted effectively, peer reviewing:

  • Draws upon the disciplinary expertise of colleagues.
  • Contributes to a collegial academic culture.

Considering that academic fields may have unique teaching styles and/or requirements, departments can use the guidelines below to develop a peer review process that best fits their specific needs. Existing practices at Cornell and published research shows that effective peer review of classroom teaching generally includes the following steps:

This process can typically be carried out in two to three hours.

Pre-Observation Meeting

During a pre-observation meeting, the observer and the instructor discuss the instructor’s plan for the class and touch on the following questions:

  • What do you want the students to have learned by the end of this class?
  • What will happen in the class? What can I, as the observer, expect to see?
  • How does this class fit in with the overall course?
  • What pre-class work will the students have done for this class?
  • Are there specific aspects of the class on which the instructor would like to receive feedback?

It may also be helpful to review teaching materials that were developed for the class. Materials may include:

  • The course syllabus.
  • Any teaching materials the instructor has prepared for that class that might be relevant, such as handouts, pre-class quizzes, homework assignments due that day, teaching notes, PowerPoint slides, or an overall teaching plan.

Class Observation

Best practices in peer review propose that a core set of criteria be used in the observation process, and that departments discuss and establish criteria appropriate for their field. These criteria may vary among fields. In the pre-observation meeting, the instructor and observer identify two to three criteria to which the observer will pay particular attention during the class. Research cites the following criteria as factors that enhance student learning:

  • Clarification of class purpose: How well does the instructor convey to the students the purpose of the class?
  • Organization of class structure: Are the class materials and activities well organized?
  • Reinforcement of major concepts: Does the instructor emphasize the major concepts being covered? Do the activities and materials utilized in class reinforce the major concepts?
  • Pacing and scope: Is the material presented at a suitable rate? Is the amount of material covered reasonable?
  • Classroom atmosphere: Has the instructor established a safe and respectful classroom atmosphere conducive to student learning? Has the instructor created an inclusive class environment?
  • Consideration of diversity: Does the instructor acknowledge or interact with a broad range of students? Is the instructor respectful of diverse opinions and perspectives? Does the instructor employ a diverse set of activities or methods to accommodate a range of student learning styles?
  • Class management: Does the instructor effectively manage the class?
  • Balance between abstract and concrete: If applicable, is there an appropriate balance between abstract and concrete concepts?
  • Classroom assessment: If applicable, in what ways does the instructor check for comprehension and solicit feedback?

Post-Observation Meeting

Following the class observation, the observer and instructor meet to review their assessment of the class. It is recommended that departments discuss and develop a post-observation process that reflects departmental teaching expectations and priorities for peer review. Some possible guidelines for a post observation meeting include:

  • Sharing perspectives on what took place during the classroom session.
  • Discussing any points brought up in the pre-observation meeting.
  • Setting goals and preparing a teaching development plan.


Best practices in peer review of teaching recommend a written summary to document the observation process. This document generally includes:

  • Pre-observation meeting notes.
  • Class observation notes (with emphasis on the two to three aspects of the class on which the observer was asked to focus).
  • Post-observation meeting notes.


Center for Teaching Innovation (CTI) staff can assist departments or individuals with the peer review process. For further information on the peer review of teaching, please contact the CTI at or 607-255-7224.

Guidelines for Peer Review of Teaching pdf
Peer Review Form - Observer pdf
Peer Review Form - Instructor pdf
References for Peer Review of Teaching pdf

See more information on CTI services for departments.

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