Graduate Instructor Peer Observation in Music Theory Pedagogy

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2019 Pedagogy into Practice

Co-Presented with Alyssa Barna

Santa-Barbara, California | 25 May 2019 | 2:30pm

Peer observation is a valuable mechanism for faculty development. It helps teachers to be more self-reflective (Peel 2005) and can serve the purposes of both professional development and judgment regarding advancement. Additionally, reciprocal observation is effective for observer and instructor alike (Cosh 1998) and helps “foster colleagueship and community” among peers (Edgerton 1996, 17). Our review of the field finds that scholarship is available at the faculty level but virtually nonexistent for graduate instructors.

Our primary research question is “what, if any, peer observation happens at the graduate instructor level?” Concentrating on music theory pedagogy, we disseminated an IRB-approved survey consisting of 10 questions to faculty and graduate students in collegiate music theory departments to gather quantitative data. Preliminary findings suggest that graduate instructor peer observation is largely isolated to only a few music theory departments across North America. We will analyze the data further to determine the kinds of music theory graduate programs that typically prioritize peer observation and the ways in which the outcomes compare with those of faculty peer observation.

Concurrently, we began a peer observation program with 6 fellow graduate instructors at our institution, creating and implementing documentation for specific kinds of observations. Our longer document is designed for a comprehensive, first-time classroom visit, in order to guide an observer’s in-class reflection. Another form covers targeted observations that focus on one particular aspect of a class period, such as time management or student engagement. We intend to perform qualitative analyses of these forms, expecting to find trends in the most common areas of concern among instructors, as well as uniform responses to specific categories of observation. Further, we will stage semi-structured interviews with those participating in our peer observation program, seeking to determine what personal effects the process has had on their teaching.

Cosh, Jill. 1998. “Peer Observation in Higher Education — A Reflective Approach.” Innovations in Education and Training International 35 (2): 171–176.

Donnelly, Roisin. 2007. “Perceived Impact of Peer Observation Teaching in Higher Education.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 19 (2): 117–129.

Hutchings, Pat. 1996. Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review. Washington: American Association for Higher Education.

Peel, Deborah. 2005. “Peer Observation as a Transformatory Tool?” Teaching in Higher Education 10 (4): 489–504.


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