An Investigation of ESL Teachers’ Experience of Peer Consultation

  • Yan Guo University of Calgary


Peer evaluation has been criticized as a threat to academic freedom and has been used, usually erroneously, as a justification for academic reappointment, tenure promotion, and merit pay. In recent years, scholars have recommended that peer consultation, which is primarily designed to improve teaching, be honored, but apart from evaluation.

In this study, peer consultation consists of three components: in-class peer observation, peer-to-peer discussion, and student input. This study explores how teachers and teaching assistants perceived their experience with peer consultation. Methods of data collection reflected a qualitative case study approach and included participant observations, audio-recorded interviews, student questionnaires, and focus groups. Data showed that peer consultation provided an opportunity for teachers to learn teaching strategies from each other, build upon each other’s teaching, reflect on their own teaching experience, and augment their understanding of their teaching beliefs. Despite these benefits, teachers reported feeling uncomfortable because of the power relationship between the observer and the observed, and new teachers were apprehensive about their perceived lack of experience. Non-native English speaking teachers also felt anxious when they were observed by native English speaking teachers. Analysis shed useful light on implementation of peer consultation as a powerful professional development force for academic staff in universities.