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When most people hear the term “peer review of teaching,” they often think of someone visiting a class and writing a report on whether the lecture was clear and whether students were paying attention (or asleep). Our view at KU is that there’s much more to teaching than holding people’s attention while talking non-stop. As this website has suggested, there’s much to designing class time, assignments, feedback, and practice that can make a course more successful. In many cases, there will be time spent with students in which the teacher appears to be doing nothing but listening and occasionally commenting. There’s an apocryphal story about a department chair making the obligatory classroom visit to a young faculty member, and he was surprised to see students working together, sometimes sharing with other groups or with the whole class, and interacting individually with the professor. After 20 minutes he said to the professor, “It’s OK, I’ll come back sometime when you’re teaching.”
Peer review of teaching should include a detailed analysis of the professor’s plan for learning, including material selection, targeted goals for students, methods of measuring learning, indicators of success in learning, and use of time with students during scheduled classes, studios and labs. To get at these elements, a high quality peer review should include a conversation between the reviewer and course instructor, organized around a set of course materials. The peer review may also include observation of one or more class periods, with a conversation before and after the observation. Although these steps may sound like they take more time than just attending a colleague's class, most faculty who participate in a peer review dialogue find it to be far more informative and valuable because it reveals the instructor's thinking (i..e, the intellectual work) behind assignments, lesson plans, communications, and other aspects of the course. Many peer reviewers find that they learn something themselves through the process. The language in the Benchmarks Rubric can facilitate the reviewer's written summary of their observations.
Guidelines for evaluation of teaching at KU include a section for peer review that’s drawn from reading and discussing a portfolio of course materials. Check out the portfolio checklist below for items to include.
- Annotated syllabus describing course content.
- Short description of reasons for decisions about content and goals.
- Elaboration of instructional design.
- Examples of assignments and of student work on those assignments.
- Reflection on students’ achievements and plans for future course offerings.
- Essential items are the syllabus, examples of assignments and student work on those assignments, and your reflections on students’ learning and plans for future course offerings.
Additional Resources. As part of the Benchmarks Framework, we have developed three guides or protocols to scaffold peer review of teaching:
- How Peer Review Could Improve Our Teaching, by Andrea Follmer and other leaders of the TEval project. Chronicle of Higher Education.
- A Course Focused Peer Review Protocol (.docx) for in-person teaching
- A Peer Review Protocol for Online Teaching (.pdf), which includes guidance for reviewing online course structure and materials
- A Guide for Peer Review (.docx) and Dialogue about Inclusive Teaching
More information about these resources and more can be found on the Benchmarks for Teaching Effectiveness page.