Scholarly Teaching Series Part 1: Observe and Document

This is the first post in the Scholarly Teaching Series. Building off the work of Richlin (2001), we hope to highlight various projects at the MN-COP at each step in the Scholarly Teaching process.

Step 1: Observe a Problem or Opportunity and Document the Baseline

The first step in Scholarly Teaching actually has two components. It starts with Observing a Problem or Opportunity. The teacher makes an observation and identifies a problem to be improved or an opportunity to be seized (Richlin, 2001) Then the teacher Documents the Baseline by noting what he or she observed needs changing or improving. This documentation of the baseline, or recording of the status quo, gives the teacher something to compare later in the Scholarly Teaching process (Richlin, 2001). ST Figure Step 1

Peer Review of Clinical Teaching

Dr. Jean Moon is leading a group of colleagues in a project, Peer Review of Clinical Teaching, to develop a  peer review process for preceptors to evaluate one another’s clinical teaching skills. This scholarly project arose when Dr. Moon identified an opportunity. As she explains,

“Currently, most of us [preceptors] only receive feedback for our clinical teaching through student evaluations. We can attend programming for preceptor development both locally and nationally, which gives us excellent areas to consider for improvement.  However, it’s not necessarily personalized to each individual’s needs or skills.  There’s something about being observed directly, in the moment.  It may help preceptors direct their efforts at improvement.”

In the Peer Review of Clinical Teaching project, the baseline documentation consisted of a description of the situation. Dr Moon stated,

Jean Moon, Project Lead
Jean Moon, Project Lead

“Our current MN-COP peer review process for classroom teaching is not necessarily designed for clinical teaching and no other formal mechanism for review of clinical teaching existed.  As clinical teaching is a primary responsibility for clinical faculty, we wanted to provide a mechanism for formative peer feedback.”

By identifying an opportunity for peer review of clinical teaching and documenting the lack of existing options, Dr. Moon and her team addressed the first step in the Scholarly Teaching process.  This first step gives direction and focus to your work and, in this case, will increase the chance for this project to successfully create a formative peer review process for clinical teaching.

The Connection to Your Work

Scholarly Teaching starts with a problem or opportunity. Take a look around your classroom or experiential site. Is there an opportunity to improve the content or delivery of what you teach? How well do your assessments tell you if your teaching is successful?

If nothing immediately comes to mind, keep observing. Regularly and consistently making observations about the teaching environment around you can uncover problems and opportunities not immediately evident. Think back on a recent teaching experience you had and utilize a technique common in disciplines doing field work (Sunstein & Chiseri-Strater, 2012) Ask yourself:

What surprised me?
What intrigued me?
What disturbed me?

This simple exercise gives structure to your observation and may help you discover your next scholarly project. Documenting the baseline does not need to be elaborate. Recording what you’d like to see changed or improved, based on your observations, helps you determine the impact of the intervention later.

Give it a try! Like Dr. Moon and the team working on the Peer Review of Clinical Teaching project, by identifying and documenting a problem or opportunity you have undertaken the first step in Scholarly Teaching.

For more information

Project Lead: Jean Moon, Pharm.D. 

Additional Team Members: Shannon Reidt, Pharm.D., Megan Undeberg, Pharm.D., Anne Schullo-Feulner, Pharm.D., Claire Kolar, Pharm.D., Gardner Lepp, Ph.D., Kristin Janke, Ph.D.


Richlin, L. (2001). Scholarly Teaching and the Scholarship of Teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2001(86), 57–68.

Sunstein, Bonnie Stone and Chiseri-Strater, Elizabeth. FieldWorking: Reading and Writing Research. 4th edition. 2012 Bedford/St. Martin’s: Boston, MA

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