Peers Exchanging Practice (PEP)
- 1. What is PEP?
Peers exchanging practice (PEP) promotes reflection on and the sharing of practice and aims to refine Solent’s learning and teaching. Whether you have started teaching relatively recently or you are very experienced, you will find taking part in an exchange of practice with peers a valuable experience. PEP is non-judgemental and non-evaluative.Observation is a key element of PEP. In this context, observation is taken to mean a research method for collecting data about what goes on in whatever teaching space is being observed (Course or Module SOL site, scheme of work, Module Descriptor, Live online teaching session, Live onsite teaching session, on demand content delivery in SOL-based topic tabs).
When used as a research method for collecting data about what goes on in whatever teaching space is being observed, PEP can be used as a method for improving the quality of teaching and, in turn, the quality of learning.
This approach is borrowed from Prof Matt O'Leary who is Professor of Education and Co-Director of the education research centre CSPACE at Birmingham City University.
- 2. The notion of peer observation (O'Leary, 2020)
The purposes and outcomes of peer observation are summarised by O'Leary, 2020, p. 159 as follows:PurposesOutcomesTo stimulate professional dialogue and critical reflection on practiceThe creation of a network or community of critically reflective practitionersTo create reciprocal opportunities for the exchange of ideas and/or good practice among colleaguesThe development of a culture of collaboration and sharing of ideas and resources among practitionersTo develop teachers' knowledge base and skills setA team of teachers with updated knowledge and skillsTo act as a key learning tool in the development of teachersWell-prepared and competent teachersTo act as a support mechanism for teachers who are in need of guidance on specific aspects of practiceImprovement in the classroom competence of practitioners
- 3. The cycle of PEP
Stage 1 provides the observee with an opportunity to think holistically about their teaching through a piece of self-reflection; outlining their strengths and identify areas for further development. The observee is provided with a set of prompts (see "How to PEP" Tab) to guide their self-reflective write up. This self-reflection is shared with the observer and forms the basis of the professional dialogue in the pre-observation meeting (which is Stage 2). Where appropriate, the observer uses coaching questions (see "How to PEP" Tab) to establish an ethos of inquiry as the observee articulates their chosen observation focus, and both agree the logistical details of the observed session.
Stage 3 is the observation itself, which typically lasts anywhere from 30 minutes up to an hour. Observers simply record what they see, avoiding judgement and evaluation. Their goal is to act as "detached awareness raisers" (Whitmore, 2002, p. 42), a lens through which the observee can gain an additional view of the events in the observation and use the observer's notes as a springboard for collegial dialogue.
Exemplar sample of an observer's notes taken during the observation of a session. The left hand column is reserved for descriptive field notes of what is observed and the right-hand column is used for questions.ObservationQuestion
Following the observation, individual reflections (which is Stage 4) are carried out by both the observer and observee. The observer further develops their observation notes, adding questions and comments in preparation for the post-observation meeting (which is Stage 5). Both bring their observation notes and Stage 4 reflections to the Stage 5 discussion and relate these back to what was discussed in the Stage 2 pre-observation meeting in terms of the agreed focus of the session. The observer draws on non-judgemental coaching skills as they discuss the learning and teaching they experienced and observed. The result? The observee formulates teaching objectives that encapsulate the learning that they have taken from the observation process and steps for developing their practice.
Stage 6 requires both observer and observee to complete their reflective-write-ups independently. The aim is to capture the holistic experience of both parties, making connection between the observation experience and past learning and teaching experiences. The observee is also expected to document the objectives identified in the Stage 5 post-observation meeting and reflect on how they intend to move their teaching practice forward, along with the resources/support they might need to enable them to do so.
Stage 7 is where the Course Team meet to discuss their role in the observation process.
At least once each year and at the end of the academic year, when all of the members of a course team have engaged in their observations, a dedicated course team meeting should be set aside for discussion which moves away from the observations of individual staff themselves as episodic events and creates an opportunity for course team dialogic professional learning. At this meeting course team members should share insights gained from the observation process and the impact these have had on both their teaching and the students' learning. This will ensure that the observation process reverberates on academics' practice and remains dynamic and relevant to all involved.
- Click on the next tab "How to PEP" for practical tasks to help you before, during and after PEP.
Why not share something you have enjoyed or learnt from an exchange? Or, ask a question - let's help each other and share ways of doing things so that we can develop learning and teaching at Solent.