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.
A recent study, conducted at UCLA and published in Active Learning in Higher Education, shows how the program helps faculty:
– articulate learning objectives (LOs),
– design instruction and formative assessment aligned to the LOs,
– and engage students in active learning.
Five cohorts of instructors (n=54) have participated in PAROSL (read about their experience here). The recently published study focuses on the second and third cohort (n=20), which included faculty from Engineering, Finance, Language, Linguistics, Literature, Psychology, and Statistics. These faculty generously agreed to have their meetings observed and recorded, yielding the rich, qualitative dataset on which the research is based.
One of the study’s findings is that by participating in PAROSL, participants began to think about their lessons differently. Their focus shifted from the content to be covered to the students’ experience and what they needed to do to move through the learning. One instructor explained, “after participating in the program, I realized that my focus was mostly on my own delivery of the material rather than being on how the material was absorbed by the students.”
The research comes at an opportune time, when universities across the country are working to reform the way teaching is supported and evaluated. At UCLA, this work is being realized through the Holistic Evaluation of Teaching (HET) initiative. Like PAROSL, HET is designed to support equitable, learning-centered instruction.
The research was conducted by Dr. Glory Tobiason (Clinical Faculty in Education at UCLA and a researcher at CRESST). She developed and began studying the program in 2019, in collaboration with CAT, CEILS, and EPIC. Faculty interested in participating during the coming academic year should contact her at email@example.com.
Tobiason, G. (2022). Going small, going carefully, with a friend: Helping faculty adopt lesson-level constructive alignment through non-evaluative peer observation. Active Learning in Higher Education. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/14697874221092977
Constructive Alignment (CA) is a pedagogical tool for designing student-centered instruction aligned to learning outcomes. Despite strong evidence that CA and student-centered instruction are superior to lecture-based pedagogy, the latter remains prevalent across higher education. This descriptive-explanatory case study (n=20) investigates how programs of reciprocal, non-evaluative peer observation can help faculty understand and use CA at the lesson level. Analysis of exit interviews and faculty-faculty dialogue reveals that participants are able to apply principles of CA at the lesson level; most report this is new learning. Two program features that support this learning are described.