Teaching and Learning in Higher and Professional Education: Mentor Guidance on Observing Teaching and Providing Feedback

  • Discuss beforehand the mentees concerns, development needs and possible focus for the observation
  • Review the mentees plan for learning (aims and learning outcomes)
  • Sit in an unobtrusive position but one where you can view teacher/learner interactions
  • Do not get involved in the learning situation
  • Observe, note what you see and suspend judgement (see below observing novice teachers)


  • Agree a time and place for feedback
  • During feedback allow the mentee to discuss what they felt about the session with reference to the key questions in the paperwork and allow them to provide a rationale for their actions
  • Be prepared to ask critical questions such as ‘when the students did/said that what do you think was going on there?’; ‘what could you have done in that situation?’; ‘how do you know learning took place?’
  • Agree on aspects that went well and aspects for development – but keeping the feedback manageable (for example no more than three developmental points at a time)
  • Be honest and open, do not be tempted to give false praise (sometimes tempting when observing with a colleague)
  • Remember teachers can learn more through observing than being observed – invite them to observe you and analyse the learning process

Our approach to observing novice teachers is based on the following view:

When observing you are describing what you see – remember as an observer you will often be able to see what the tutor cannot therefore you are providing an alternative view. This provides an opportunity for the person being observed to view their teaching objectively, analyse and draw their own conclusions. This approach is intended to  help the tutor improve their confidence and self-efficacy in developing their own teaching practice. Evaluative judgemental comments (positive or negative) may have the effect of reducing their self-evaluative ability so should be limited. During the feedback session you should listen to what the tutor feels went well  and what could be improved before agreeing development points.