Suggested Principles and Guidelines for the Peer Review of Teaching
Peer review assessments of teaching are used increasingly at UBC and the practice has been strongly endorsed (1996 Senate Report on the Evaluation of Teaching). Proper peer review assessment is an important complement to our widespread practice of student evaluations of teaching. If peer reviews of teaching become part of the ongoing activity of the university, part of the culture, then we think that constructive peer reviews will enhance the quality of learning at UBC. This document provides a brief rationale for peer assessment, as well as some suggestions for developing standards, criteria and approaches.
Rationale for a Peer Review Process
Following standard practice in university settings, the peer review of teaching is based on principles of peer review already used in assessments of grant applications and publications. Colleagues who are knowledgeable about content areas, and who are themselves accomplished teachers, can provide peer review teaching assessments that contribute to both the evaluation of teaching as well as the improvement of teaching.
The key difference between peer reviews of grant applications, publications, and the like, is that with the peer review of teaching the peers are not arms-length, they are immediate colleagues. For this reason we stress that the peer review of teaching is more useful as a form of constructive feedback for the improvement of teaching than it is as an evaluative tool in making career decisions (i.e., promotion, tenure). When using peer review for evaluative purposes, involving two independent reviewers enhances the evaluation.
Some Basic Principles
- Reviews of teaching should parallel principles involved in peer assessment of research (e.g., professional, responsible, knowledgeable)
- Peer reviewers must have appropriate preparation for this process and be knowledgeable about sound principles of teaching and learning
- All colleagues must be aware of the criteria that are to be used in any peer review
Factors to Be Considered When Formulating a Peer Review Process
Key Institutional Issues
- What constitutes good teaching at UBC?
- See “Effective Teaching Principles and Practices,” UBC Senate (May 1999)
- What do we, as an institution, accept as evidence of good teaching?
- Mainly, two types of evidence are used:
- Student evaluations of teaching
- Peer review assessments of teaching
- Mainly, two types of evidence are used:
- Do we have programs on the peer review assessment of teaching?
- Yes, through the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.
- Are there standard procedures in place to present evidence from the evaluation of teaching?
- Evidence of teaching is a required element of evaluation reports for promotion and tenure many units require evidence of teaching evaluation for merit decisions teaching dossiers typically include evidence of teaching evaluations.
Qualities That a Peer Review Should Reflect
The process must be fair, protecting both the individuals under review, and their units, from arbitrary and unprofessional outcomes;
The process must be explicit, where criteria for success are known and understood;
The process must be manageable, with resources for evaluating performance available within the unit (especially time resources) and peer reviewer preparation and consultation available;
Feedback from the process must be available to the individual under review and should be provided in writing (and perhaps verbally as well).
The standards used in the process should be consistent and complementary for local (unit level) interests, as well as for faculty and university needs and priorities;
The process should incorporate both information on student learning and the approaches and conduct of the individual's teaching.
Consider the breadth of activities to be measured
The following provides two related approaches to the peer review assessment of teaching, gleaned from lists developed at many institutions in North America and elsewhere.
Focus on: a careful analysis of the conception and execution of a course of study goals and objectives: consider course design; outlines; hand-outs; other printed/electronic material; reading lists; fit with other courses
- Enactment and interaction: consider in-class observations; discussion with class; focus group discussion; discussion with teaching/lab assistants and/or co-teachers; individual interviews with students; interview with instructor
- Results: consider evidence of student learning through examinations, assignments, reports, essays, projects
Focus on: a review similar to what one would do for assessing research
- Clear goals – does the scholar state basic purposes clearly? Are objectives realistic and achievable? Are important questions in the field covered/illuminated/discussed?
- Adequate preparation – does the scholar show an understanding of existing scholarship? Does the scholar have the necessary skills and knowledge to teach this course? Are all the necessary resources properly marshaled to do an effective job?
- Appropriate methods – does the scholar use methods appropriate to the goals established? Are the methods effectively applied? Is there evidence on flexibility in modifying approaches as necessary?
- Significant results – does the scholar achieve learning goals? Are additional areas for further learning exploration revealed? Are students learning?
- Effective presentation and learning enhancement – does the scholar use a suitable style and effective organization to help students learn? Does the scholar interact with students with clarity and integrity?
- Reflective critique – does the scholar critically evaluate his/her own work? Is an appropriate breadth of evaluation used to improve the quality of future work?
Other issues to consider
It is important to include the following, as appropriate, when undertaking peer review assessments:
- Mentoring of students, via advising, employment, workshops, etc.
- Supervision of students, in honours courses, directed studies, graduate supervision,
- Curriculum development, department/faculty/university committees
- Innovation in teaching, via TLEF, Web courses, field work, Problem Based Learning, etc.
- Research and scholarship related to teaching
- Multiple classroom visits