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Peer Review

Often called “peer observation of teaching ” or “peer evaluation of teaching,” peer review of teaching (PRT) involves seeking feedback from an informed colleague for the purposes of improving one’s practice (formative assessment) and/or evaluating it (summative assessment). In 2010, the TAMU Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force recommended having separate review processes for formative and summative assessment using multiple sources of data from students, peers, administrators, and as well as faculty themselves for evaluating teaching.
 
Content :

What are the Purposes for Evaluating Teaching?
Benefits of Peer Review of Teaching
Establishing a Formal PRT Process
Tools
Texas A&M Framework and Observation Tools
Three Basic Steps to Reviewing
Additional Resources
Research and Scholarship of Teaching/Learning


What Are the Purposes for Evaluating Teaching?

To-Improve.pngTo-Recognize.png

There are many possible components to peer review of teaching, such as observing classrooms, evaluating and giving feedback on course design and assessment practices, and reviewing examples of student products. Formative evaluations, if done well, can help improve teaching and inform summative decisions. Additionally, a well-established PRT plan can make very meaningful differences in ways that departments talk about teaching effectiveness and encourage collaboration in reaching departmental goals. Exploration of the information and links on this webpage will give insight into some of the benefits of PRT, processes for implementing a PRT program, and tools to aid in the process.
 
Reward.png

Although the diagram above demonstrates how formative reviews can inform summative decisions, the primary focus of CTE is to aid departments in establishing a PRT process that will allow faculty to review each other’s teaching for the purpose of improving teaching. The focus on improvement based on genuine colleague feedback offers faculty an opportunity to improve aspects of their teaching without worrying about the data collected being used against them in formal evaluations. In this case, faculty members can choose whether or not to use the materials in presenting their teaching achievements and improvements for formal evaluations.


Benefits of Peer Review of Teaching

Peer review of teaching can be especially helpful in providing formative feedback that students are not equipped to evaluate. Peers are a good source of information and can provide constructive feedback about an instructor’s capacity to select relevant course content, the quality of organization and planning for a class, the appropriateness of instructional materials and assessment methods, and the instructor’s concern for student learning.

PRT is not only beneficial to the person being reviewed, but also for the evaluator. Teaching involves learning from our experiences and the experiences of others. Observing a class or reviewing a colleague’s course materials allows instructors to reflect on their own teaching philosophy and methods. The dialogue that stems from a well-established PRT process can positively impact a department’s emphasis on teaching excellence.



Initial Considerations When Establishing A Formal PRT Process
 
While the process will be unique to meet each department’s needs, there are some basic guidelines that can help when establishing a formal PRT program. The following recommendations were adapted from Chism’s (2007) Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook:
  1. Attain leadership support.
  2. Determine readiness for developing a peer review of teaching system. This can include a survey of faculty opinions regarding their understanding of peer review of teaching and willingness to engage in a process.
  3. Develop a statement for the department regarding how teaching will be evaluated. Specifically:
    1. ​Who may benefit from this program?
    2. What are the purposes of the program (development, documentation for merit increases or promotions etc.)?
    3. What areas of teaching will be assessed (classroom observations, teaching portfolios, syllabi, course portfolios, etc.)?
    4. How will the evidence be collected?
    5. What resources will be available for establishing and sustaining a peer review program?
    6. How will the plan be documented and communicated?
    7. How will the plan be monitored and assessed?
    8. How often should the plan be reviewed?
  4. Design peer review of teaching system
    1. Which faculty members will be involved?
    2. When and how often will the review(s) be conducted?
    3. Criteria
    4. Evidence
    5. Standards
    6. Instruments for performing reviews
    7. Procedures for conducting and recording reviews
    8. Provisions for preparation of reviews
    9. Provisions for revision of the plan
If your department is considering establishing a PRT system, the following document can help to guide initial discussions: PRT Process Development Questions


Tools
 
The Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force developed a framework (below) for evaluating teaching based on a review of the literature, the experiences of peer institutions, and the experiences of faculty at Texas A&M. CTE can provide a variety of tools that departments can adapt to best suit their needs when choosing forms for evaluation that can be linked to the framework developed by the task force. Because the primary focus should be to improve teaching rather than officially evaluate it, these forms provide faculty with a way to standardize the feedback that is exchanged during the peer review of teaching process. Should a faculty member decide to use this information in their P&T file to demonstrate growth and commitment to teaching, these forms are an efficient way to do so.

 
Texas A&M Framework and Observation Tools
 


Three Basic Steps to Reviewing
 
Once a PRT process has been established and tools have been identified and agreed upon, a best practice for conducting reviews includes three basic steps.
Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (Chism, 2007).
  1. Pre-review Dialogue: In this stage, the person being reviewed establishes a context for the course by discussing the objectives of the document (e.g. syllabus review) or class session to be reviewed. Questions or concerns are also addressed, and this can allow the reviewee to establish which aspect of teaching s/he is seeking feedback on. Mutual expectations are also established at this stage.
  2. Review Itself: In this stage, the observer examines the instructional materials or observes a class session, interprets the material or situation (through rubrics or commentary), and makes recommendations to the reviewee.
  3. Post-review Dialogue/ Documentation/ Reflection: In this stage, the reviewer provides constructive and action-oriented feedback that includes specific examples. The reviewee reflects, makes (and records) decisions or plans for moving forward based on the feedback received.

 
Additional Resources
 
  1. 2010 Report: TAMU Faculty Performance Evaluation Task Force
  2. Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook by Nancy Van Note Chism provides an excellent overview of peer review of teaching and the processes for implementing the process.
  3. Temple University: 12 Tips for Peer Observation of Teaching provides an outline of some tips for making observation of a class more effective.
 

Research and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

 
  1. Bell, A., & Mladenovic, R. (2008). The benefits of peer observation of teaching for tutor development. Higher Education, 55(6), 735-752. doi:10.1007/s10734-007-9093-1.
  2. Carter, V. K. (2008). Five steps to becoming a better peer reviewer, College Teaching, 56(2), 85-88. doi: 10.3200/CTCH.56.2.85-88
  3. Kohut, G., Burnap, C., & Yon, M. (2007). Peer observation of teaching: Perceptions of the observer and the observed. College Teaching, 55(1), 19-25. doi: 10.3200/CTCH.55.1.19-25
  4. O'Keefe, M., Lecouteur, A., Miller, J., & McGowan, U. (2009). The colleague development program: A multidisciplinary program of peer observation partnerships. Medical Teacher, 31(12), 1060-1065. doi:10.3109/01421590903154424.
  5. Seldin, P. (2006). Evaluating faculty performance: A practical guide to assessing teaching, research, and service. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.