The approach to peer evaluation suggested here is based upon the principles of:

  • collegiality
  • openness
  • negotiation

The evaluation cycle should be based in a clear understanding of the particular context of teaching. The approach assumes that peer review statements developed as part of the evaluation will shared between the reviewer and the person being reviewed. By establishing a dialogue between the two parties as respected colleagues it is possible to develop critical yet constructive accounts without the need for hidden or restricted statements. Dialogue throughout the cycle also provides an important mechanism to explore opportunities for improving teaching.

The review activities ideally should be conducted over a period of weeks and not as a ‘one off' observation of a class.  This allows for the development of a consolidated report drawing upon the ideas of both participants. Reports based on more extensive review processes are likely to provide a more useful contribution to improvement purposes than an account of single events.

A peer evaluation cycle
A peer evaluation cycle

Planning activities

The process and activities outlined below are presented as a guide for staff initiating an evaluation of their own teaching.

  • Decide on the purpose of the process - improvement or certification?
  • Evaluate your strengths, achievements, constraints and difficulties.
  • Identify the aspect(s) of your teaching role that you want feedback about.
  • Find a peer.
    Two key questions here are:
    What type of person, or which individual, would you like to work with?
    What do you want to offer to your peer?
  • Arrange a pre-review meeting

This needs to occur well in advance of the time in which the peer review is required.  The outcome of the meeting should be an agreed, negotiated set of criteria by which to conduct the review. The staff member being reviewed should present details of the aspects he or she would like taken into consideration, especially perceived strengths of teaching.  The reviewer should indicate the aspects he or she considers are important in such a review. 

These could include:

  • philosophy and approach to teaching
  • presentation skills
  • group work and facilitation skills
  • course material and resources
  • assessment methods
  • curriculum and staff development
  • aims, objectives and content

The resultant criteria should represent the views of both participants.

It is important that you:

  • discuss and explain your philosophy of learning and teaching to present the reasons for the learning and teaching methods used and changes made. 
  • explain how your teaching may be constrained by decisions beyond your control or to indicate where innovative or novel approaches have been undertaken with their attendant risks.
  • present details of materials and resources used. [A well-organised teaching portfolio of course outlines, booklets, reading lists, assessment methods, resources and student evaluations can assist in these discussions.]

Conduct the review using agreed methods and sources of information.

Peer review usually includes observation of teaching. It ideally should more than one session.  There should be an attempt to sample the range of teaching activities in which the staff member is engaged (lectures, tutorials, practicals, bedside teaching).  If there is time, it may be preferable to observe activities more than once, to account for ‘observer' effects.  It is useful to provide feedback immediately after the session.  Again, this feedback could be given accordingly to jointly established criteria.

  • The reviewer should prepare an interim report to be negotiated and discussed with you.
    Feedback should be provided to staff as soon as possible after any observation session focusing on the jointly agreed criteria. If anything that is identified falls outside the agreed criteria its inclusion should be mutually agreed.

Meet to discuss interpretation and explanation of the observations

The interim report should be discussed, interpreted and explanations given for the statements made.  Often misconceptions can be clarified in this way.  Any difficulties between the two parties can usually be resolved provided a collegial relationship has been established.  In principle, both reviewer and colleague should be satisfied that the report is accurate, fair, highlighting the strengths of the staff member's teaching and provides constructive criticism where appropriate. (If differences cannot be reconciled this will need to be indicated in the report.

If the review is intended solely for certification purposes, then all that remains is to write the final report.  This should be structured according to the criteria agreed between the two parties.  Again, there should be negotiation of the final report.

If the review is part of a formative focused evaluation, the cycle can then move into the next phase to explore and implement opportunities to improve learning and teaching.

Peer evaluation also can be conducted by:

  • A teaching team engaging in self reflection on evidence

OR

  • A collaborative co-evaluation process as part of an on-going arrangement between a pair or group of colleagues who may or may not teach in the same academic field or course.

Teaching Team Evaluation

Peer evaluation in team teaching is an ideal context to

  • Clarify common learning intentions,
  • Justify teaching and assessment processes,
  • Critically review the appropriateness of content
  • Critically review the effectiveness of teaching processes
  • Identify, implement and evaluate alternative approaches

Collaborative Group Evaluation

Colleagues agree to collectively review and reflect practice

  • Belong to same/different areas of the University
  • Jointly set and select goals and focus for review
  • Establish a cooperative effort of review
  • On-going
  • Deep understanding
  • Established trust
  • Greater risks can be taken