Lecturers sitting in on colleague's lectures, and laptops

By Grant Jacobs 03/12/2010

Janet Stemwedel’s latest post opens,

One of our professional duties in my department is sitting in on colleagues’ classes and writing peer-reviews of their teaching. This is almost always a useful activity, and I usually learn a teaching trick or two that I might be able to use in my own classes.

Reading this, I wondered what lecturers think of this practice, esp. those in New Zealand.

Does your department or university practice peer assessment amongst lecturers?

Do you think you learn from this?

If it’s not done, do you think that it’d help?

I can’t speak from experience as a lecturer, as I’ve only had research-only positions, but I did sit in on a fourth-year course a few years back. I found myself not only learning the material,* but also looking at the lecturing styles, particularly as it was a new department for me. My taught courses as an undergraduate were in microbiology/genetics and computer science, with a mixture of other courses such as statistics and chemistry. As anyone who has been to university will know, each departments, fields and lecturers, have their own teaching style to varying degrees.

Thinking about the presentation style, how they interacted with the students, how the students benefited (or not) was something I took away in addition to the course itself.

The main focus of Janet’s article is wishing that there were a switch to switch off wireless access to the internet within lecture rooms. You might wish to join in her discussion on that. I can imagine many will have some thoughts on that matter…


* Cognitive neuroscience, a fascinating subject.

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0 Responses to “Lecturers sitting in on colleague's lectures, and laptops”

  • Well, where I work it’s rather unusual to ask a colleague to sit in on one’s lectures, in the sciences at least & quite possibly more widely. Personally I welcome having someone do this as it gives me the opportunity for feedback on my teaching (I try to stay in a cycle of continuous improvement) & similarly, watching someone else often sees me picking up tips that I can use in my own classroom. (As was the case at all three conferences I’ve just been to – watching gifted teachers in action is just so inspirational!) But I think maybe some folks feel a bit threatened by having someone else sit in & give feedback? Or maybe an element of ‘my lecture theatre is my castle’?

  • Just to add to what you’re saying: What I probably should have spelt out, is that I didn’t think that this was done in a formal way, i.e. as part of a “set” thing lecturers were required to do, as Janet’s passing remark suggests & it struck me. I’m sure some individuals ask or volunteer to on a one-to-one basis, though. (Good for them.)

    As a bit of an aside while I’m writing this, I know some universities offer “improvement” classes to staff, e.g. courses on practical skills or, relevant here, teaching tips. I’m guessing part of these might be each of those attending to give a short lecture, with the others watching & commenting?

  • Yeah, our Teaching Development Unit runs that sort of thing; I’ve presented at a couple myself. The problem is that you tend to see the same people coming along, a lot of the time, & they tend not to be the people in most need…

    I offer to do the sit-in thing but it’s usually turned down. I must be a very scarey person!