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Peer observation for professional development policy

Peer observation of teaching is recognised across the UK HE sector as a means of enhancing practice through garnering feedback from colleagues, learning from observing others’ work and engaging in open and collegial conversation.

 POPD aims to build self-awareness and provide a learning process which encourages peer learning, supports colleagues’ professional development and enhances teaching and student experience. The value of POPD resides in the space it creates for dialogue around pedagogic practice, and the ideas, insights and developments that can emerge through these conversations. The St Mary’s POPD policy is predicated on the sharing and development of practice and the understanding that peer observers are learning from the opportunity of reviewing a colleague’s work as well as offering constructive feedback. The POPD scheme is not to be used as a performance management tool.

 This policy document sets out core principles, aims and procedures of the POPD scheme. The expectation is that each member of staff in academic and related roles will commit to observing and being observed once, in each academic year.

 Colleagues are encouraged to adapt the processes set out here in line with local circumstances.


  1. The primary purposes of the policy are to a) promote sharing of practice and b) support colleagues’ professional development by offering insight into their teaching and pedagogy.
  2. Teaching observation reports will not be used for performance management purposes.
  3. All colleagues who teach or directly support student learning (such as colleagues offering academic study support) will be expected to participate in peer observation. This will ensure parity of opportunity and potentially enable closer working between staff in different student-facing roles.
  4. Peer observers can be selected from either within or outside of a colleague’s own subject specialism or department. Potential advantages of the latter arrangement are that a) the primary focus is on pedagogy (rather than subject content) and b) practices from different disciplines are shared more broadly across the University.
  5. Members of POPD pairings can be at different stages of their careers and/or at varying levels of seniority. A pairing[1] organised in this manner has the potential to increase the innovative practices and range of experiences to which colleagues are exposed.
  6. Observation opportunities can be drawn from a wide range of teaching activities including classroom teaching (lectures, seminars), fieldwork, lab sessions, practice-based learning, coaching, personal tutoring meetings (where appropriate and with permission from students), research supervision (with permission from students), online teaching, learning development sessions and similar.
  7. Reporting and confidentiality: Staff are expected to report their completion of peer observation to their HoD/Dean, but feedback and discussions between participants remain confidential.[2] Only the fact that the observation has taken place is reported.

Full Peer observation for profession development (POPD) policy, approved by ADC, March 2022.

Template for a structured peer observation.

For further information, please contact Dr Colleen McKenna.





[1] The term ‘pairing’ is used throughout the document because this is likely to be the default arrangement. However, colleagues may choose to work in trios or small groups to undertake observations.

[2] Exemption from confidentiality will apply only where there is an overriding reason enshrined in law or University policy, e.g. if the observed practice raises concerns about staff misconduct or safeguarding.