Observation of teaching practice for new and experienced teachers alike is not known as a pleasurable activity, more a reluctant duty. A group of four of us from the School of Architecture and Design in Birmingham City University (BCU) came together to design an Action Research project to investigate models of Peer Observation of Teaching as an alternative. We took a model set by Kenny et al. and a model used in the Department of Health at BCU and applied them to our School, across the various disciplines we all taught in and across different levels of undergraduate and postgraduate study. These involved a mixture of online, in-person and hybrid delivery and observation. A variety of type of teaching and experience was sought in the design of the project to reflect the breadth of the core teaching activities of the school, however pragmatic matters also played an important role in the final selection. The various sessions that were observed could be characterised as a software skills session, an architectural history lecture, a lecture on applied practice and a small group tutorial.nThe Kenny model requires the participants to inhabit four roles – that of Teacher being observed, Student-role Observer, Peer Observer and Neutral Observer. There was an initial degree of exploration of the meaning of each role, the boundaries and benefits of it, which expanded as each participant swopped role. Key conclusions emerged on aspects such as the workability of the model, the impact of the specific delivery and observation mode, the scope for learning and improving teaching practice from each role in the model and the wider challenges of design pedagogy. There was some new insight into the best sequence of feedback and reflection. Certain surprising absences or repressions in the process were identified. Much enjoyment (and learning) was achieved!
Katriona Byrne worked in the heritage industry in Ireland since 1995, becoming a Conservation Research Officer in Dublin City Council in 2001 and subsequently Conservation Officer in Cork City, Roscommon County and Wexford County Councils, with various stints in between as a Conservation Consultant. She came to England in 2013 to take up a position as Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas with Historic England. Her experience in industry led to her position as Course Director of the MA and postgraduate courses in the Conservation of the Historic Environment at Birmingham City University in 2018. She embarked on an Action Research project in the School of Architecture in 2021 with three colleagues examining a model for peer review of teaching. Her research interest areas include (Un)Shared Heritage, Energy Efficiency in Traditional Buildings and the Pedagogy of Conservation and Heritage. She works as a volunteer in her spare time for the Twentieth Century Society.
Alexandra King is an Interior Designer from Birmingham, UK who is currently a lecturer and deputy year leader for second year BA Interior Architecture and Design at BCU. She has a MA in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh and a Graduate Diploma in Architecture from the University of Westminster. Alex has worked within architectural practice and interior design across various locations including New York and London. Most of her time in practice has been spent working on educational projects for international practice Hawkins\Brown. Here she worked on the University of East Angelica Bob Champion building and medical school which won a RIBA regional award in 2016. Her pedagogical interests lie within the fusion of education and industry and the ways in which early exposure to the field of design can improve student engagement, development and success.
Max Wisotsky is a Swedish-American designer, theorist and historian from Los Angeles, California, currently a lecturer and head of Second Year architecture at the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, Birmingham City University. He holds a BArch from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (2015) and a MA in Architectural History from the Bartlett, UCL (2018). His writing and research has looked at narrative and creative writing as methods for producing architectural history; the development of a Marxist ecological theory as a critical method for interrogating architecture, urbanism, and the production of space; and an action research project on developing a model of peer review of teaching within BSOAD, alongside three colleagues. His personal design method is centred around creating compensatory spaces that brings people, their architecture, and their more than human environment in which they sit, closer together.