I have been observed four times as a college-level instructor, and formally evaluated three times. I felt nervous while teaching during all the observations, but I also found them all to be useful. In each case, I reviewed the evaluation with the observer and discussed elements of the class that seemed to work particularly well, and ones that seemed to fall flat. I remember one observer mentioned a moment in the discussion when he thought I missed an opportunity to broaden the conversation and reflect more on a particular historical theme. I have felt nervous about being observed in the past because observations are linked to evaluations, and, in my experience, they have usually been performed by much more senior professors. They are also, however, productive moments to consider and evaluate your own pedagogy.
The evaluations that I found most useful were the ones that occurred as part of a larger ongoing conversation about pedagogy. I was lucky to work as a teaching assistant with a number of tenured professors at Hunter college. Assisting these instructors in teaching their classes also meant that I was engaged in a semester long conversation with them about teaching. My observations occurred within that context. Erica Campbell’s The Value of the Non-Evaluative: Rethinking Faculty Observation emphasizes the importance of creating these types of on-going discussions around teaching. Interviewing your colleague before and discussing the class after both seem like useful tools to try to construct this continuous discussion about pedagogy. It is also fun to experience other classes, and to see your colleagues in action. Finding time to schedule these types of observations and meetings, however, can be a challenge.