Frequently asked questions about the Peer Review of Teaching Program
Peer review of teaching
Peer review of teaching is informed assessment, by colleagues or peers, of teaching-related activities for the purposes of fostering development and/or making personnel decisions. There are two main types of peer review: formative and summative. Both formative and summative are integral to a comprehensive evaluation of teaching.
Summative peer review
Summative peer review of teaching is informed collegial judgment about teaching intended for evaluative purposes. Summative peer review is used to aid in making personnel decision, such as hiring, promotion, and tenure. The primary goal is to assess instructor performance relative to criteria. The information is for public inspection (I.e., by the department head or dean, and by tenure and reappointment committees) and may be more comparative in nature than formative peer review (Cassidy & Lee, 2011; Chism, 2007; Cavanagh, 1996).
Formative peer review
The primary goal of formative peer review of teaching is to develop and enhance teaching practice. Formative peer review provides instructors with information they can use to grow professionally in their teaching. The information is confidential, constructive, and intended for an instructor's personal use. The process is usually rich in detail, ongoing, and fosters self-reflection and insights into teaching (Byrne, Brown & Challen, 2010; Chism, 2007; Gosling, 2014).
Byrne, J., Brown, H., & Challen, D. (2010). Peer development as an alternative to peer observation: A tool to enhance professional development. International Journal for Academic Development, 15(3), 215-228.
Cassidy, A. & Lee, J. (2011). Peer Review: Structured, informal, confidential, helpful. Collected Essays on Learning and Teaching, 4. 68-73.
Cavanaugh, R. (1996). Formative and summative evaluation in the faculty peer review of teaching. Innovative Higher Education, 20(4), 235-240.
Chism, N.V. (2007). Peer review of teaching: A sourcebook (2nd ed.). Bolton, MA: Anker Publications.
Gosling, D. (2014). Collaborative peer-supported review of teaching. In J. Sachs & M. Parsell (Eds.), Peer Review of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. New York, NY: Springer. Professional Learning and Development in Schools and Higher Education, 9, 13-31.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FORMATIVE PEER REVIEW PROGRAM
- What is the purpose of peer review of teaching?
- What is the difference between a formative and summative peer review?
- What is the benefit of having more than one person review my teaching?
- What is the benefit of selecting a reviewer from outside the faculty?
- What is the advantage of participating in this program, if there is already a departmental peer review of teaching process?
- Is this peer review summative or formative?
- Do academic rank or job classification matter in the process?
- How is confidentiality handled in the formative peer review of teaching program?
- I teach a PBL class. May I participate in the program?
- What will be done with the information about my teaching generated during the peer review?
- What control do reviewees have over and during the process?
- Who will review my teaching?
- What training do the peer reviewers receive?
- When should peer reviews take place?
- How will reviewees receive feedback?
- What is formative feedback?
- What is implicit bias and what does it have to do with peer review of teaching?
- How much time will the process take?
- What form will the reviewers' reports take?
What is the purpose of the peer review of teaching?
Within the context of higher education, the peer review of teaching has two broad purposes: 1. to assist instructors enhance their teaching, and 2. to assess an instructor’s teaching as part of a formal reward system linked to the individual’s career advancement (i.e. tenure, promotion and other personnel decisions).
What is the difference between a formative and a summative peer review?
In the formative peer review of teaching process, colleagues generate information for you about your classroom teaching that you can use to improve your teaching and your students′ learning. You control the process and how the resulting information is used. For example, in the formative process, you would select the person who conducts the observation and would then decide whether the written comments—if there are any—would be kept confidential or added to your personnel file. In a summative peer review, colleagues observe you teach and report back to the department head or dean for the purpose of reappointment, promotion or tenure.
What is the benefit of having more than one person review my teaching?
Two reviewers will give you two different perspectives on your teaching. Because teaching is such a complex activity, the reviewers may focus on different aspects of your teaching and the students′ learning. Having two reviewers may give you more reliable information about your teaching.
What is the benefit of selecting a reviewer from outside the faculty?
Because they are unfamiliar with the discipline and learning environment, external reviewers are like new students encountering your class for the first time. They will be able to give you an outsider’s perspective on your class. External reviewers can provide feedback on aspects of teaching like how you structure learning activities, facilitate discussions, and communicate with students. They also will be able to share teaching ideas and strategies used in their discipline.
What is the advantage of participating in this program, if there is already a departmental peer review of teaching process?
Too often, institutional boundaries prevent colleagues interested in teaching from having sincere conversations about common educational issues and challenges. The program seeks to foster cross-faculty discussions about teaching and learning.
Is this peer review summative or formative?
This program is intended to be formative. However, if you think your department would value knowing about your progress over time, then you may consider including the reviewers′ reports in your teaching portfolio, tenure and promotion request, or in your annual review.
Do academic rank or job classification matter in the process?
All educators are invited to participate and learn from one another. In this program, reviewers may be at the same or different rank from the reviewee.
How is confidentiality handled in the formative peer review of teaching program?
The only people involved in the discussions will be the reviewee and the reviewers. The process is confidential, unless the reviewee decides to include reflections or documentation about the process in their teaching portfolio or personnel file.
I teach a PBL class. May I participate in the program?
Yes, because the peer review process is designed for various forms of teaching and learning.
What will be done with the information about my teaching generated during the peer review?
Reviewees receive written reports from their reviewer(s). Reviewees decide how they will use the information contained in the reports and with whom they will share the information. The aim of the program is to generate useful feedback that a reviewee may be able to use to develop and/or revise aspects of his/her teaching, to incorporate into a teaching portfolio or to bolster an argument for tenure and promotion.
What control do reviewees have over and during the process?
Each reviewee selects the peer reviewer with whom they will work, decides which class the reviewer will attend, sets the objectives and focus for the classroom observation, and decides what to do with the feedback they receive from the reviewers.
Who will review my teaching?
The list of reviewers is available on a section of this website. You will choose a reviewer among the people listed.
What training do the peer reviewers receive?
All peer reviewers complete an intensive training course run by CTLT which teaches them how to conduct peer reviews and to observe classroom teaching. Many of the reviewers have also completed the UBC Faculty Certificate Program on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the Instructional Skills Workshop, or a graduate degree in Higher or Adult Education.
When should peer reviews take place?
The peer review can happen any time deemed suitable for you and your reviewer. Each reviewee may decide when to schedule the classroom observations. Scheduling them earlier or towards the middle of the term will give you timely and relevant feedback that may be useful in the later stages of your course. Also keep in mind that reviewers will be busy towards the end of semester with their own teaching.
How will reviewees receive feedback?
Reviewees will receive verbal and written feedback. Reviewees will meet with their reviewers after the classroom observation and engage in a friendly, collegial dialogue about the class that the reviewer observed. The reviewers will also summarize their feedback and suggestions in a written report.
What is formative feedback?
Formative feedback is information that is intended to support an educator′s growth towards becoming a better teacher. The feedback aims to be non-evaluative and is not intended to be a snapshot or final judgement of an educator′s fitness or competence. Rather the goal is to provide information that can help you reflect on your teaching and plan changes for the future. Formative peer review aims to help you better understand how you approach the task of university teaching, and who you are as a teacher.
What is implicit bias and what does it have to do with peer review of teaching?
Implicit biases refer to our unconscious associations linked to race, sex, age, and other identity markers that influence our evaluative thoughts and attitudes toward others (e.g., instructor’s favorable attitude toward certain students, reviewer’s negative assessment of an instructor’s teaching effectiveness based on a stereotype of the instructor’s social group). Because implicit biases are unconscious and automatic, it takes time to unlearn or control them. However, becoming aware of your own implicit biases can help you better regulate them.
It is important for both you and your reviewer to be cognizant of the implicit biases (http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/research/understanding-implicit-bias/) that both parties inevitably bring into the classroom. You (and your reviewer if possible) can take the Implicit Association Test (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html) and discuss what you learned from the results.
How much time will the process take?
The process normally takes a minimum of five hours to complete.
What form will the reviewers′ reports take?
The report consists of the following materials:
- Notes from the pre-observation meeting. This may include notes taken by the reviewer during the meeting, a summary that the reviewer writes after the meeting, emailed or written answers that the reviewee wrote (if they wish to submit them to the report), or similar kind of notes.
- Notes that the reviewer takes during the classroom observation, or a summary they write immediately after. It may take the form of prose, a chart or other similar kinds of notes.
- Notes taken during the post-observation meeting. This may include notes or a summary that the reviewer may take during the conversation and notes that summarize the conversation between the reviewer and the reviewee.
These notes/summaries make up the report, which is shared with the reviewee during the post-observation meeting and left with them at the end of the meeting.