October 2022

October 2022 Blog: Challenging traditional student roles - classroom observation practice in peer teachers development

Throughout the years, at Universidad Austral, we have identified that being able to teach has a positive impact in student's learning experience. It´s important because the brief age gap allows closer relationship with students and students are able to gain expertise in teaching.

At our school, peer teachers are advanced students that teach younger students in practical classes of different subject areas. For most of them this activity is their first teaching experience. Therefore a pedagogical training proposal was designed. Throughout 22 years over 400 students from 4 different disciplines (medicine, nursing, nutrition and psychology) have taken part of it.

The pedagogical training course’s main axes are: to introduce teaching and learning, to present the main teaching strategies for health sciences (such as lectures, roleplaying, simulation, problem based learning), to provide a theoretical framework for assessment and to promote reflection on teaching practice. Throughout different activities, reflection is encouraged because it allows students to learn from their own teaching experiences.

During 2021 new students with no previous teaching experience enrolled in the programme. For this reason, the final assignment was modified.

In previous editions, participants had to plan a lesson but even though constant review, we were not coming up with a final project that engaged and motivated them to reflect upon their teaching practice.

Last year, as a new final assignment they had to observe a lecture from different subject and/or discipline, record it using an observation grid and answer metacognitive questions.
How we did it:

  • We asked several teachers from different disciplines subjects to participate in this activity as observation opportunities
  • We designed an observation grid in which participants had to give evidence of those aspects they could observe regarding: Teacher’s attitude, Teaching strategies and general ideas.
  • Peer teachers had to decide which lecture they wanted/could observe and had 2 weeks to do it.
  • We also presented the following questions to promote reflection:
    1. What are the positive aspects you could identify of the lesson?
    2. Do you think there is something that may be improved? If so, what would you suggest?
    3. How did you feel as an observer? And what did you learn?
  • Finally, they shared experiences with their peers at a final meeting. They were divided into groups in which a tutor guided the reflection and debate. The goal was to share similarities and differences observed and reflect upon them.

  • We acknowledge that observation, guided by questions that promote reflection, is a valuable opportunity to engage peer teachers in their pedagogical training. Direct observation also led to role change – from student to observer. Enabling peer teachers to focus on teaching strategies/ activities and gain critical perspective of teaching practice.

    Therefore, observation practice can actively involve peer teachers with their teaching. Through a final survey, most of them recognized observation as a fulfilling experience and a opportunity to deeply understand teaching practice.

    To conclude, through observation and reflection, peer teachers may identify valuable practices to apply in their lessons. Students, teachers and institutions can benefit from this practice. It’s a great learning opportunity to promote in peer teacher training.

    Lucia Galazi and Angel Centeno
    Medical Science Education Department
    Universidad Austral, Argentina