At a Glance
Using a peer-to-peer learning approach to professional development, administrators provide instructors the opportunity to observe their colleagues teaching.
Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center administrators created a peer-to-peer observation model to provide instructors with embedded and practical professional learning opportunities. Under this model, instructors select two of their peers to observe, each for a half-day session, in an effort to learn more about particular teaching strategies that interest them.
At the conclusion of each observation, the observer submits a reflection form to the administration. The form includes a section for the observer to record “Notable Components from the Observation,” “Key Take-A-Ways,” and similarities and differences (“Compare and Contrast”) between how the observer teaches the topic and how the colleague does.
During the first year that the peer-to-peer observations took place, any interested instructor could participate. All observations were completed by October. For the second year, the administration scaled the program to include only those instructors who had five or less years of experience. In the third year, the administrators plan to open up the opportunity again to all faculty members with the provision that the observer must visit another set of peers.
Origin / Implementation
The peer-to-peer observation model is intended to provide practical professional development opportunities to staff members. By observing colleagues, instructors learn approaches to behavior management and teaching strategies that they can apply immediately in their classrooms and that they can discuss and explore further with their colleagues.
The administration views the new model as a means to highlight the knowledge their instructors had to share with each other and to shift thinking away from the idea that quality professional development can only occur in a top-down (administration to instructors) approach or be provided by external “experts.” For those instructors who were observed, the approach also provided them with a teacher-leader opportunity.
In 2012, the administration worked closely with the Association leadership to develop the peer-to-peer observation model and collaborated with the business manager to arrange for coverage with substitutes.
To schedule the observations, the administration distributed a list of potential observation days to the teaching staff. Teachers then collaborated with each other to select the peers they were going to observe, and they coordinated their schedules. Although there were a few overlaps that had to be shifted, overall the scheduling proved fairly easy to complete.
Results / Impact
Administrators note that the number of teachers interested in integrating technology into their instruction increased after the peer-to-peer observations took place. Specifically, they saw an increase in the number of requests for “SMART Boards” in classrooms.
Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center
Jeff Geesey, Assistant Director