The power of peers in GTA development of practice: evaluation of an equal-status teaching observation project

Kerry Dobbins, Neil F Adams, Ellen Bishop, Mehman Ismayilli, Martha Papadopoulou, Megan L Phillips, Nadine Tauchner, Elizabeth van Wessem, Joe Watkins


Peer observation of teaching is a well-established professional development practice and can occur through a range of different activities (e.g., micro-teaching, lesson study, performance reviews, etc.). There is evidence that these various activities are being increasingly used to support Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs). This paper reports the findings of a pilot project that implemented equal-status, interdisciplinary and developmental peer observations. As a collaborative project, it was co-designed and evaluated by eight GTAs and an academic developer. Our observation framework involved GTAs’ undertaking the observee and observer roles and retaining five of six identified dimensions of control. The findings show that the observation experiences encouraged both new and experienced GTAs to take a self-reflective and critical stance to their teaching and disciplinary approaches. This confirms the value of GTAs’ experiencing the observer role and their exposure to other disciplinary environments. The post-observation ‘learning conversations’ provided significant opportunities for GTAs to discuss and reflect on their practice contexts and experiences together. This represents an effective example of peer supported learning, which also reduces the sense of isolation that GTAs often experience.


Graduate teaching assistants; peer observation; PhD students; professional development; teaching practice

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