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Peer Review

Introduction

Peer Review may serve two purposes. One purpose is for formative assessment, where a faculty member wishes to improve teaching in general or to address one specific teaching issue. Observations can be discussed informally or the faculty member may ask the reviewer(s) to write up a summary that could be used in his/her teaching dossier.

The second purpose of Peer Review is for summative evaluation where a judgement is being made on the performance of the faculty member for the purposes of promotion.

This document outlines best practices for both formative and summative Peer Review. Information has been gathered and assessed from universities across Canada, including our own, and the United States. A resources section is included at the end. Faculties are invited to adapt/adopt the options presented to fit the disciplinary paradigms, department policies and available resources. A process should be chosen that can be implemented consistently (for example, the same number of observers and the same number of observations).

It is believed that a Peer Review process for the purposes of summative evaluation should be as consistent as possible within one university campus. However, this document consists of guidelines and suggestions and may be used at a department’s discretion and modified as needed.

Peer review is usually thought of as the classroom observation piece of a summative assessment and as such, is only one part of a larger review process that may include monitoring and assessing such things as student achievement, professional and ethical behavior, thesis supervision, quality of research, institutional and community service, among other things.

The UBC Collective Agreement Article 4.02 lists the following factors as the criteria by which teaching performance is judged for decisions of reappointments, tenure, and promotion: “Evaluation of teaching shall be based on the effectiveness rather than the popularity of the instructor, as indicated by command over subject matter, familiarity with recent developments in the field, preparedness, presentation, accessibility to students and influence on the intellectual and scholarly development of students.”

Peer review is considered to be a valuable addition to the student evaluations that are collected each term because many aspects of teaching practice either do not appear in the classroom and so are invisible to student evaluations (course design, curriculum innovation) or may not be within the students ability to meaningfully assess (instructor expertise with subject matter, appropriate rigor of student assessment). Peer Review will diversify a teaching dossier by offering this different perspective. Peer observation of teaching offers critical insights needed to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of instructional effectiveness.

(Instructor initiated)

A. Goals of Formative Peer Review:

  • To improve student learning
  • To increase instructor effectiveness
  • Data collection for Teaching Dossier
  • To explore/discuss teaching and learning with others

B. Formative Peer Review Process Suggestions:

  1. The instructor should identify areas of concern or areas for development
    (for example: classroom performance, course design, course materials)
  2. The instructor should choose one or two colleagues to observe his/her lessons
  3. The instructor should meet prior to the lesson (pre-conference) to discuss the context of the lesson, targets for observation and data collection methods.
  4. The instructor should consider how and when they will let the students know why a colleague will be observing the class. The students should be informed that the colleague is observing the instructor and not the students. (For example: “I have invited a colleague in to observe my teaching, they will just be sitting in the back of the room for the class and not participating in the lesson.”)
  5. The observer(s) should not participate in the lesson.
  6. The instructor and observer(s) should meet immediately after the lesson (post-conference) to share observations and reflections. If the instructor wishes for a written summary to be used for their dossier, then the observer(s) should prepare that.
  7. This process may be repeated if the instructor finds it helpful.

C. Other Available Resources for Teaching Improvement:

  • Collecting midpoint feedback from students.
  • Audio or video recording of lessons for review and reflection.
  • Participating in an Instructional Skills Seminar
  • Reading current teaching and learning research.
  • Participating in the Open Classroom program or Teaching Squares
  • Reviewing course materials with a colleague.
  • Self-reflection and journaling.

Formative Peer Review may also be a process that is completed on a rotational basis within a department. The purpose of this process would be to provide faculty with assistance, guidance and mentoring in developing their teaching skills and improve the quality of instruction within that department. If this is the case, then the choice of observers should be by agreement between the instructor and the Head. Also, more formalized and consistent criteria should be used to ensure fairness. The results may be for the sole ownership of the instructor or kept on file with the department.

A. Goals of Summative Peer Review

  • To assess a faculty member’s abilities as an instructor in order to maintain institutional standards.
  • To assess a faculty member’s abilities as an instructor for the purpose of promotion.
  • To diversify the course evaluation process beyond the student evaluation questionnaire.

B. Summative Peer Review Process Suggestions:

  1. The Head and the Instructor will agree on the observers. In some cases, a department may wish to identify 2 Peer Reviewers for an academic term or year and this would count as faculty service.
  2. Ideally, 2 reviewers would review 2 lessons, using the pre-conference, observation and post conference cycle that is indicated  in the formative process.
    *Note: Most reviewers observe an upper and a lower level class, however it may be more useful to see the same class twice.   Also, if the instructor has been using the formative process or has been reviewed recently, a department may decide to only require one current observation.
  3. Reviewers should use a set of criteria or template that has been previously shared with the instructor.
  4. During the post-conference, information will be shared on the data gathered and the instructor will be given time to reflect and add any additional analysis.
  5. The reviewers will submit their reports to the instructor and the Head..

C. Potential Criteria for Peer Review Observation:

Organization/Structure:

  • of course
  • of an individual class
  • use of space, comfort, learning environment

Learning Goals/Outcomes:

  • appropriate for course, students
  • acceptable academic rigor
  • communicated clear, high expectations

Communication & Interaction:

  • with students
  • rapport, respect
  • questioning and responding
  • demonstrates enthusiasm
  • responsive to student questions and suggestions

Content:

  • quality of materials – currency, relevancy, appropriate level
  • volume of material

Indicators of Student Involvement and Engagement:

  • attendance, participation, note-taking, inappropriate behavior

Teaching Strategies:

  • matches content and objectives
  • variety
  • effective delivery
  • opportunity for active learning
  • promotion of critical thinking

Evaluation/Assessment:

  • fair and appropriate cognitive challenge
  • matches learning objectives
  • frequent feedback

Open Stem:

  • Describe aspects of the class that were particularly effective/ineffective.