In this case study, we discuss our experience in designing a developmental and collaborative protocol for peer observation at Padua University (Italy) and reflect on the related benefits, challenges, and tensions emerging during implementation. We do so in light of the limited available literature that addresses how peer observation activities and programs are designed and experienced in the Italian context where faculty development is still in an infancy phase.
This case study explores the way higher education teachers perceive and experience peer observation, and consequently how academic developers can design peer observation to stimulate academic buy-in. We analyzed our experience drawing on multiple data collected at different stages of our programme, particularly the questionnaires compiled by participants pre and post-activity, and the research team ethnographic notes based on conversations, formal meetings and training sessions with the academic teachers.
Following this line, the case study describes and reflects on the main challenges and tensions that can arise in designing and developing a peer observation practice and how they can be addressed. Finally, it discusses the role of institutional support and recognition, suggesting how to secure them to foster academic engagement and to ensure the sustainability of peer observation while at the same time guaranteeing that the activity remains developmental and collaborative.