Peer Review of Teaching

This month, our guest editor, Isabeau Iqbal, will be exploring the topic of peer review of teaching. Isabeau is a Senior Educational Consultant, Educational Leadership, at the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT). She leads UBC’s formative peer review of teaching program for faculty members and is involved in various summative peer review of teaching initiatives.

Teaching is often a solitary activity whereby an instructor plans, does and reflects on their teaching alone.

The peer review of teaching (PRT), a process where academic colleagues give and receive feedback on their teaching, invites conversations about teaching. It brings teaching into a more public sphere—thereby helping make it “community property” (Hutchings, 1996).

Ideally, the PRT stimulates collegial conversations about teaching that are energizing and promote professional growth. In practice, however, the PRT may not live up to that ideal. This is especially so when PRT is used for evaluative purposes and the process is unidirectional (with said “expert” judging another instructor) and involves minimal communication and feedback.

The PRT is an established practice at the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, and it is used in post-secondary institutions worldwide to promote reflection on teaching and to offer an alternative perspective to the student evaluations of teaching.

Peer review of teaching

The information from Vanderbilt University’s Center for Teaching provides an excellent overview of PRT. Basic information is provided, such as the distinction between formative and summative review, and the benefits of PRT. In addition, this post offers practical “how-to” information on conducting reviews (e.g., how to pick reviewers, criteria for assessing teaching, etc.). The section titled “Possible Limitations of Peer Review?” addresses important issues of bias, collegiality, and time/effort in peer reviews.
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Peer review in the active classroom

Indiana University’s Mosaic Initiative has developed a set of resources specific to doing PRT in the active classroom. As post-secondary institutions put greater emphasis on active learning and make significant investments to support a wider range of pedagogical strategies (Van Horne & Murniati, 2016), the resources here are particularly relevant and timely. You can find protocols for the pre-observation, classroom observation, and post-observation meeting in the link below.
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Students assessing teaching and learning

This article looks at an alternative model of “peer” review of teaching—one that intentionally partners undergraduate students and faculty members. Referred to as the “Students as Partners” (SaPs) movement in higher education, this approach invites undergraduate students to provide feedback on teaching to instructors who voluntarily choose this type of review. Though some may argue that this approach lacks the peer1 element, it is nevertheless a model worthy of consideration.
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UBC tools for peer review of teaching

The CTLT offers a formative Peer Review of Teaching program, open to all members of the UBC teaching and learning community, through which you can participate in a cross-Faculty formative PRT process. Learn more about how UBC’s formative Peer Review of Teaching program works, its benefits and the support you can receive from it.

To build your understanding of, and skills in the PRT, view this series of short videos we created:

  1. Reviewer’s first steps
  2. How to prepare for a pre-observation meeting
  3. The pre-observation meeting
  4. The classroom observation
  5. The post-observation meeting

Notes
1: If one adopts the archaic definition of peer—i.e., “companion”—then an undergraduate student is most definitely a peer in the context of undergraduate teaching.

References
Hutchings, Pat. 1996. Making teaching community property: A menu for peer collaboration and peer review. Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
Van Horne, S., & Murniati, C. T. (2016). Faculty adoption of active learning classrooms. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 28(1), 72-93.

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Enjoyed reading about Peer Review of Teaching? Learn about other topics we covered in the November 2019 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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