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The notion of peer observation can sometimes be a worrying one for staff at Universities, particularly those in their early career. The current body of literature on peer observation appears to indicate 3 main drivers behind the process; Evaluative (which is sometimes perceived as having links to quality assurance), Developmental and Peer Review. All three drivers are valid and have a purpose but HEFi is offering something new and more informal in its approach, known as the Open Classroom. The Open Classroom moves away from the traditional top-down implementation of the majority of peer observation models. Instead, we are adopting a form of peer review, where self- and mutual- reflection are emphasised, resulting in formative feedback (Siddiqui et al, 2007: 297). Hendry and Oliver (2012) also critique the expectation of peer observation as a reciprocal process and state that this may not be necessary, or even desirable, particularly in cases where there is a low level of rapport between staff (and so a potential for the one observed to feel unnecessarily nervous or vulnerable). The Open Classroom does not require reciprocity in the same way as many other schemes – there is flexibility in the scheme that will allow you to observe and be observed by a variety of people.

With this in mind, the Open Classroom aims to provide a safe, developmental space to learn with colleagues from across the institution. This will give you experience of learning and teaching across a variety of different subject disciplines and supports a community of practice centred around the enhancement of teaching practice. The Open Classroom does not replace existing guidelines or requirements on peer observation within schools and departments, but rather complements existing practice of this kind. If you have any questions about the initiative or you would like to register, please contact Jamie Morris or visit our Open Classroom webpage.