Collegiate Observation, Enquiry and Discussion - COED

What is it?

Collegiate Observation, Enquiry and Discussion (COED) is for all staff who teach at the University of Sheffield. It replaces the previous scheme, the Annual Dialogue.   The new scheme continues to emphasise the importance of a range of activities besides peer observation of teaching in the development of teaching and learning. 

What is the purpose?

COED provides a framework that enables those who are involved in any teaching activity, including supervision of research students, to develop individual and collegiate practice in learning and teaching. In order to provide a high quality learning experience for our students is it essential that teaching staff engage in ongoing professional development in learning and teaching. Other benefits include:

  • Faculties and departments can collect and report examples of good practice. Staff can be nominated for teaching awards;
  • Areas for improvement can be identified and provision made for appropriate support and development;
  • COED can be incorporated into learning and teaching away days;
  • If appropriate, it could feed into the SRDS process.  Records of activities can be included in portfolios for teaching promotions.

What does it involve?

Academic departments are expected to ensure that all staff involved in teaching engage in some form of activity with peers that facilitates the development of learning and teaching practice. This could be through, e.g., some form of peer observation and feedback, through enquiry into your individual practice, to playing an active role in departmental discussions and initiatives on assessment, feedback or other areas that the department is working on.  In addition to ensuring that such opportunities are provided for their teaching staff, departments must keep a record of the types of activity carried out. Departmental approaches to COED will be reviewed as part of Periodic Review.  Forms for recording your COED activities can be downloaded from the menu on the right.

Examples of activities that departments and staff are currently engaged in include:

“The feedback provided by my colleagues was valuable in that it related directly to methods and strategies for teaching and learning in my subject. Some colleagues were experimenting with methods and strategies – very useful to hear about and observe in practice. This helped me learn that it is acceptable to try out new strategies.”

“It was very useful to get feedback from peers. [T]o get the opportunity to see other teaching styles and activities…and to take ideas to consider within my own practice.”

  • Simple straightforward conversations with colleagues are a valuable, often overlooked source of professional development in all aspects of teaching and learning:

“Some interesting things came from talking to colleagues and seeing things [from] their point of view.”

“I found conversations with colleagues useful, in terms of discussing ideas and practices.”

Is there professional recognition for COED?

Yes - individuals can use COED activities as evidence to support an application for one of the Higher Education Academy’s fellowship categories  via the University of Sheffield’s new Learning and Teaching Professional Recognition Scheme (LTPRS). COED is also an opportunity to gather evidence which could be used to nominate colleagues for a Senate Awards for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (if colleagues don’t know about your good teaching, they can’t nominate you).

Why else is COED important? 

Research indicates the value of collegiate observation, enquiry and discussion from a number of perspectives:

  • Feedback and discussions about teaching can help new staff integrate better into their new social environment (Morrison, 1993).
  • De Stobbelier et al. (2011) found that staff who sought direct feedback or feedback from a variety of sources exhibited more creativity in their work.
  • Gabriel et al. (2014) cite a number of studies demonstrating that “supportive feedback environments” can increase role clarity and enhance performance.
  • Colleagues are uniquely placed to provide constructive and useful feedback on all aspects of teaching and learning from planning and organising, to methods of delivery, to assessment (Blackwell, 1996).
  • In terms of observations of teaching, the observers themselves benefit from the exposure to someone else’s teaching practice and philosophy, with the opportunity to reflect on their own (Blackwell, 1996).


Askew, S. (2004) Learning about teaching through reflective, collaborative enquiry and observation. Learning Matters, Institute of Education, Issue 15.

Blackwell, R. (1996) Peer Observation of Teaching and Professional development. Higher Education Quarterly 50 (2):  156-171

De Stobbeleir, K.E.M, Ashford SJ and Buyens D. (2011) Self-regulation of creativity at work: the role of feedback-seeking behaviour in creative performance. Academy of Management Journal 54 (4): 811–31

Gabriel, A. S., Frantz, N. B., Levy, P. E. and Hilliard, A. W. (2014) The supervisor feedback environment is empowering, but not all the time: Feedback orientation as a critical moderator. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 87 (3): 487-506

Morrison, E. W. (1993) Newcomer information seeking: Exploring types, modes, sources, and outcomes.
Academy of Management Journal, 36 (3): 557–589