Peer-Assisted Reflections on Student Learning or PAROSL is a UCLA program in which pairs of faculty observe each other’s classes, discuss student learning, and implement an innovative teaching technique. PAROSL supports faculty as they find ways to make their teaching more inclusive and student-centered. Two new studies published in the International Journal for Academic Development and Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning provide evidence of the positive impact that PAROSL can have on faculty thinking and pedagogy.
The author, Dr. Glory Tobiason (Clinical Faculty in Education at UCLA and a researcher at CRESST) developed and began studying the program in 2019, in collaboration with CAT, CEILS, and EPIC. By observing four cohorts of faculty (n=40) as they engaged in PAROSL, she found that the program helped instructors shift from a content-centered logic to a student-centered one (DOI: 10.1080/1360144X.2021.2015691). She also identified key design features of peer observation that support responsive teaching innovation (DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2021.1987791).
The research comes at an opportune time, when universities across the country (including UCLA) are working to reform the way teaching is supported and evaluated. For institutions aiming to include peer observation in these reforms, programs like PAROSL suggest a promising way to strengthen inclusive, student-centered pedagogy. Details and abstracts for the articles are included below.
Tobiason, G. A. (2021). Faculty supporting faculty… supporting students: Peer observation and responsive teaching innovations. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 53(6). https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2021.1987791
Research-based instructional practices make a difference for students, but simply telling faculty to adopt them does not foster lasting changes in teaching practice. More promising is faculty development that’s embedded in the day-to-day work of teaching. In the Peer-Assisted Reflections On Student Learning program at the University of California Los Angeles, pairs of faculty members observe each other’s classes, reflect on how student learning is unfolding, and collaboratively devise teaching innovations that respond to the actual needs of students. This model can be effective when it provides adequate time for reflection; is framed around student learning, not teaching; is explicitly nonevaluative; and provides coordinating guidance for faculty pairs.
Tobiason, G. A. (2021). From content-centered logic to student-centered logic: Can peer observation shift how faculty think about their teaching? International Journal for Academic Development. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2021.2015691
This research investigates how peer observation programs can be designed to enhance faculty use of student-centered logic. Data include participants’ self-reports (interviews) and 50 hours of recorded faculty-faculty dialogue. Findings suggest specific design features that may increase fluency in student-centered logic. The study may be useful to academic developers interested in helping faculty move beyond content-centered, lecture-based approaches to teaching.