The use, evaluation and contribution of teaching observation for quality assurance (QA) and quality improvement (QI) in teaching in HE

Grant type: Development (2000-08)
Round: October 2006
Amount awarded £4,987.00
Completed: January 2008
Leader(s): Ms Sue Oosthuizen
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Contact Email:
Dr Fergus McKay
Academic Director of Open Studies and Director of Certificate in Education Programme, Centre for Lifelong Learning , University of Warwick
Mr Ian Grayling
Course Director for Professional Education, Institute for Lifelong Learning, University of Leicester
Start Date: 1 January 2007
End Date: 14 August 2007
Interim report received: 12 June 2008
Final report received: 12 June 2008

The project aims to impact on the quality of teaching (QI and QA) in HE by mapping, investigating and formulating new areas for research on underdeveloped understandings of the impact on teaching QI and QA of new approaches and good practice in teacher observation in HE

This project seeks to map and investigate a new field of activity relating to teaching in HE: the relationship between teacher observation and QI and QA of teaching in HE. It seeks to develop agendas for future activity and research in this little-understood area of activity through consultation with practitioners, institutions and stakeholders in HE.
The use of observation as a tool for professional development is widespread not only for trainees on teacher education programmes, where observation policies and procedures are well developed, but also for more experienced teachers.
In HE, the impact of the greatly increased activity and interest in the observation of teaching, particularly arising from QAA Subject Review, has had mixed consequences for its use as a tool for developing teaching. There is some evidence that observation for QA, evaluation and performance management purposes may undermine its use as a tool for professional development (Gosling 2005).
Similar tensions between the use of observation for development and judgement can be found in FE where there is now a universal expectation that organisations’ quality assurance and self assessment systems, inspected by Ofsted, will have teaching observations at their heart (Ofsted 2006); and observation is increasingly incorporated into performance management.
Current policies and practices support the professional development potential of teaching observation. For example, an enormous amount of time and resources have been and are now invested in developing and implementing teaching observation policies and procedures in initial teacher training and to support ongoing QA and QI in both HE and FE.
The evaluation of these activities and their outcomes is under-represented in approaches to QI and QA. In a developmental context there is much anecdotal and case study data to support the view that peer observation improves teaching and develops collegiality and reflective practice (Bell 2002; Cordingley et al 2005). It appears there is little evidence to show the impact of teaching observation on students’ learning and outcomes and that this is difficult to assess (Gosling 2002; Guskey 2000). In any case, findings from research into schools’ evaluations of the impact of their CPD activities suggest that such evaluation practices might also be highly limited across both the FE and HE sectors (Goodall et al. 2005). This project aims to address this deficit.