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The Peer Observation Process: Developing Teaching Excellence
FAQs on The Peer Observation Process
FAQs on The Peer Observation Process
What is a CPO?
A CPO, or Certified Peer Observer, is a full-time or adjunct faculty member who has been trained to conduct classroom observations to support teaching excellence and afford faculty an opportunity to dialogue and reflect on teaching practices.
Why a peer?
Peers share the same experiences in the classroom and are in an excellent position to provide support and create a dialogue about teaching with you, something that does not necessarily or purposefully happen.
Who becomes a CPO?
CPOs are selected by a nomination/recommendation process by a department chair, program director, or the appropriate school dean. CPOs should have at least five years of teaching experience and a strong teaching history. When nominated, a letter of invitation is extended to the faculty member to become a CPO. If the invitation is accepted, the CPO is then trained before conducting observations.
Why can’t I select my own CPO?
The university employs over 1490 faculty. That’s a lot of people who need to be observed. We believe that trained peer observers can provide you with the best and most informed feedback to support teaching. Our CPOs are trained so that regardless of who visits your class, you will receive an informed, reliable observation. You are always welcome to invite others into your classroom, and you have the option of requesting an additional CPO to receive even more feedback on your teaching.
How are CPOs assigned to faculty?
CPOS are assigned to faculty by location. Full-time faculty CPOs are assigned to other full-time or adjunct faculty. Adjunct faculty CPOs are assigned to other adjunct faculty. Since we teach in many locations and in many teaching modes, we must be sure that we can cover all teaching locations from campus and our education centers to our online programs.
Are CPOs and their faculty colleagues matched by rank?
No. We do not distinguish differences in teaching quality through rank: Good teachers exist at every rank and discussions about teaching should not occur in isolation, such as associate professors observing/speaking with only other associates, etc. This creates an artificial hierarchy about who can be a good, effective teacher and is not healthy for discussions on teaching that are meant to bring faculty together.
Can I request another CPO instead of the one assigned to me?
Yes. If you have a valid reason why a particular person in the role of CPO should not be observing you (e.g., a personal friend, someone who has demonstrated non-collegial behavior toward you in the past), then you may request another CPO by emailing Amanda Forrester at
. A CPO may also request to be reassigned a different faculty member for the same reasons.
Can I decline to be observed by a CPO?
Yes, full-time faculty can decline to be observed. However, we encourage you to give the process a try. CPOs undergo training to provide you with an evidence-based, reliable observation that is ultimately more valuable than that of a non-trained peer. Research shows clearly that the peer observation process is more valid and reliable when conducted by trained peers. We believe that once you have experienced it, you will come to rely on trained peers for the best and most informed feedback.
Shouldn’t my CPO be within my discipline?
Our observation model focuses on developing shared discussions about teaching strategies, student engagement, student-teacher interaction, and classroom delivery that are not bound by discipline but are part of the larger, common areas of good teaching practices that we all should be sharing. The observation process is intended to provide opportunities for faculty from different areas to engage in conversation about teaching while providing useful and reliable feedback. In addition, we have long had a tradition of inviting peers into classes who are not in our shared disciplines. This model continues that tradition but with trained peers. You are always welcome to invite any discipline-peer into your classes in addition to your CPO. That person would simply mark the “Peer” box on the observation form.
Do CPOs use a different observation form than that used by my chair or dean?
No. The university uses one basic observation form for teaching, with slight variations for a face-to-face or online setting. CPOs use the identical observation form used by your chairs, deans, or any other peer who observes you. However, they have undergone training to ensure their observations are informed, specific, and effective.
I have noticed other materials besides the form itself on the Intranet. What are these, and do the CPOs use them?
We have improved the observation process by defining the performance rankings, providing descriptions of each observation category, and including key words that CPOs use to identify performance in each area. The purpose is to ensure a common language among peers and their colleagues and to reduce bias and subjectivity. CPOs are trained to use these materials in their observation of you. You should always read over these materials and become familiar with them.
How do the peer observations fit into my teaching record?
Peer observations comprise one data point among many that create a picture of you as a teacher. Other components include your own self-assessment; chair observations and dean observations; end-of-course student evaluations; instructional materials, assignments, and exams; and anything else you might develop for teaching that helps you gauge your teaching effectiveness such as a self-designed mid-term student evaluation.
Remember: a single teaching observation is a snapshot of teaching practices in an individual class and is only one piece of the larger picture of you as a teacher and a professional at the university.
I heard that CPOs visit my class twice. Is this true?
Yes, it is. Since part of the peer process is meant to promote reflection and dialogue about teaching, peers will visit you twice. The first time is more formal and allows you to reflect upon your class and share those reflections with your CPO. You will be asked to complete a pre-observation form, communicate with your CPO prior to the class, and complete a post-observation reflection that will be used to inform your post-observation meeting with your peer. Then your peer will visit you a second time to see how things are going. However, this is an informal observation meant to help continue the dialogue. There are no forms filled out, but the CPO will follow up with a brief communication after the informal visit.
It seems like I have a lot of people visiting my classes. How many observations do we have to have?
Typically, adjunct faculty are observed once when they first begin teaching for the university and then rotating every other year or as needed. They may be observed by both their department chair and their CPO. Full-time instructors and tenure-track full-time faculty in their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd years are observed by both their department chair/graduate director and dean, and now also by a CPO. They can also elect to invite a peer in to observe—it’s up to them. According to the Faculty Bargaining Agreement, tenured faculty must now be observed annually by their department chair and a peer at the associate or full rank. But this is separate from the CPO process. A CPO is also assigned to tenured faculty.
I’m a full professor. Since I have achieved the highest faculty rank, why do I have to be observed?
As stated above, full professors are indeed observed annually according to the collective bargaining agreement and will also be given access to a CPO. We believe that creating opportunities to reflect on teaching and discuss teaching are a necessary part of being faculty at a teaching institution. So the CPO process is extended to every teacher at the university.
Full professors stand as faculty models for others. We believe that full professors should lead the way in acknowledging and sharing with others the Saint Leo tradition that, as educators, we must never cease learning how to be better and more effective teachers. Achieving a particular rank does not mean that we no longer actively participate in the life of teaching, in the discussions about teaching, or that we stop reflecting on teaching practices.