Peer review dimensions of teaching

There are nine dimensions of teaching that inform the process of peer observation of teaching, and the option of a tenth that the applicant may create.

Applicants for peer review should choose all nine of the dimensions of teaching for their peer review, unless they consider that one or more dimensions have no relevance to the teaching session being observed. Applicants may also compose an additional dimension that is specifically relevant to the peer observation and which is not covered by the existing nine dimensions.

What is essential during the observed teaching session is the effective demonstration of a planned approach to teaching using dimensions and strategies that have been identified in the pre-observation meeting. Examples of peer review reports [PDF, 85 KB, 6 pages] reflect typical observations.

The nine dimensions of teaching are not independent; inevitably there is overlap across different dimensions. The dimensions of teaching are provided as a broad guide only. The strategies outlined are an attempt to illustrate the types of teaching behaviours judged to relate to, and enhance, the respective dimensions of teaching observed. They do not represent a list of required practices.

Dimensions of teaching to be observed

Dimension 1: Students are actively engaged in learning

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • fostering a supportive, non-threatening teaching/learning environment
  • encouraging students to express views, ask and answer questions, and allow time and opportunity for this to occur
  • using questioning skills which encourage student engagement
  • providing immediate and constructive feedback where appropriate
  • demonstrating enthusiasm for teaching and learning
  • (for smaller groups) fostering extensive interaction
  • (for very large groups) presenting in such a manner as to achieve maximum engagement

Dimension 2: Students prior knowledge and experience is built upon

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • being fully aware of and/or determining students’ prior knowledge and understanding
  • building on students’ current knowledge and understanding, and taking them conceptually beyond this level
  • where appropriate, using and building upon student contributions and preparation

Dimension 3: Teaching caters for student diversity

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • demonstrating an appreciation of the different levels of knowledge and understanding in a group
  • addressing, as appropriate, different learning needs and styles within the group
  • focussing on building confidence, enthusiasm and intrinsic motivation
  • fostering students’ responsibility for their own learning, encouraging them towards being self-directed learners, (as distinct from teacher-directed learners)
  • using appropriate strategies for different needs, balancing discursive interactive strategies with those that are more didactic (where simple transmission of knowledge is needed)
  • recognising, at times, the need for teacher-directed strategies such as explaining, and being able to implement these effectively
  • exercising balance between challenging and supporting students
  • designing activities/tasks that allow students of differing abilities to participate/engage and demonstrate/enhance their learning
  • providing examples or opportunities for discussion that cater for cultural diversity

Dimension 4: Students are encouraged to develop/expand their conceptual understanding

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • helping students bridge the gap between their current conceptual understanding and the next “level”
  • helping students become aware of what the next levels are
  • encouraging students to become self- directed learners by using the “lecture”/presentation as the stimulus for individual study/learning
  • challenging students intellectually eg by extending them with question/answer/discussion components where students’ conclusions must be justified to the teacher and peers. This usually involves questions such as “What do you think is going on”; “Why”; “What if…?” etc
  • encouraging students to summarise or “construct “ their individual conceptual understanding (ultimately the learner must be responsible for his/her own learning)
  • encouraging deep (intrinsic) rather than surface (extrinsic) approaches to learning
  • working cooperatively with students to help them enhance understanding
  • clearly demonstrating a thorough command of the subject matter

Dimension 5: Students are aware of key learning outcomes

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • ensuring students are progressively aware of key learning outcomes
  • focussing on learning outcomes at key points in the presentation
  • ensuring a synthesis of key learning outcomes is emphasised towards the conclusion of the session so that individual student follow-up work is well focussed
  • encouraging each student to accept responsibility for learning issues to follow-up and consolidate
  • ensuring students are aware of the link between key learning outcomes and assessment (formative and summative), as appropriate

Dimension 6: Actively uses links between research or industry and teaching

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • emphasising, where appropriate, links between research outcomes and learning
  • using research links appropriately, given the level of student conceptual development
  • raising students' awareness of what constitutes research

Dimension 7: Uses education resources and techniques appropriately

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • using IT techniques effectively, eg PowerPoint or multimedia presentations of a professional standard
  • using, as appropriate, a balance of IT and other strategies
  • using available classroom resources to support student learning effectively
  • supplying resources, materials and literature to support student learning
  • using specific educational strategies and techniques in the design and delivery of teaching sessions, to achieve key objectives

Dimension 8: Presents material logically

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • providing an early brief structural overview of the session
  • developing this structure in a coherent manner, ensuring students are constantly aware of the development of the session
  • providing time for reviewing at key stages, including closure
  • establishing closure, aiming at helping students draw together and understand major issues and identify individual learning needs and short-comings

Dimension 9: Seeks feedback on students’ understanding and acts on this accordingly

Indicative teaching strategies for demonstrating this dimension may include:

  • seeking feedback progressively during the session eg through constant observation of interest level and engagement and by using specific questions to test understanding
  • modifying the presentation to accommodate feedback messages
  • seeking feedback towards the conclusion of the session to assist student to determine individual work to be consolidated

Dimension 10: Other areas relevant to institutional priorities

An additional dimension may be composed that is specifically relevant to the peer observation, and which is not covered by the existing nine dimensions. If this option is chosen, the applicant must prepare a single sentence statement that specifies the aspect of teaching to be observed. This statement must be provided and explained to peer reviewers at the pre-observation meeting.