The aim of formative peer review is to improve teaching for the benefit of student learning. It draws on the expertise of academic colleagues who provide constructive feedback on all areas of teaching practice, including the observation of teaching as well as the review of curricula and teaching resources. (Harris et al., 2008). More importantly, formative peer review of teaching also requires reflection on received feedback and on reviewed teaching (Bell et al., 2010; Bell & Mladenovic, 2015).
Formative peer review is a valuable tool in the promotion of collegial working practices and mutual learning. This is particularly true in reciprocal peer reviews, where peers take turns in reviewing each other (Barnard et al., 2011). This creates the opportunity to develop not only by receiving feedback but also by observing others (Hendry et al., 2014).
Benefits of Formative Peer Review
Formative peer review has many benefits. It allows peers to:
- Design the process to meet their individual needs and goals (Smith 2014)
- Learn and reflect on how their colleagues teach (Chism, 2007; Harris et al., 2008, 2008; Rowe et al., 2010)
- Identify and promote good practice and innovation in teaching (D ’Andrea & Gosling, 2005; Harris et al., 2008; Rowe et al., 2010)
- Identify professional development needs (Harris et al., 2008; Rowe et al., 2010)
- Develop collegial relationships (D ’Andrea & Gosling, 2005; Harris et al., 2008)
- Develop skills in Scholarship of Learning and Teaching (Chism, 2007; Rowe et al., 2010)
- Collect evidence for promotions or teaching awards (Harris et al., 2008; Rowe et al., 2010)
Formal Formative Peer Review
Each faculty at UNSW offers a formal peer review program. All teaching staff are expected to participate in the formative peer review process as both reviewers and reviewees at least once every two years. The formative peer review process should focus on reflection and identification of areas for improvement, producing actionable outcomes that contribute to ongoing teaching practice and myCareer plans.
Informal Formative Peer Review
Academics are encouraged to engage in informal peer reviews by asking a trusted colleague to observe your teaching or review your course, learning materials or assessment tasks (Grainger et al., 2016; Harris et al., 2008).
Informal formative peer review allows both the reviewer and the reviewee ownership over the process and outcomes of the review. They can negotiate who reviews, what is reviewed or what form the feedback takes, e.g., a written report, a casual chat over a cup of coffee.
Barnard, A., Croft, W., Irons, R., Cuffe, N., Bandara, W., & Rowntree, P. (2011). Peer partnership to enhance scholarship of teaching: A case study. Higher Education Research & Development, 30(4), 435–448. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2010.518953
Bell, A., & Mladenovic, R. (2015). Situated learning, reflective practice and conceptual expansion: Effective peer observation for tutor development. Teaching in Higher Education, 20(1), 24–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2014.945163
Bell, A., Mladenovic, R., & Segara, R. (2010). Supporting the reflective practice of tutors: What do tutors reflect on? Teaching in Higher Education, 15(1), 57–70. https://doi.org/10.1080/13562510903488139
Harris, K.-L., Farrell, K., Bell, M., Devlin, M., & James, R. (2008). Peer Review of Teaching in Australian Higher Education: A handbook to support institutions in developing and embedding effective policies and practices. Australian Learning and Teaching Centre (ALTC).
Hendry, G. D., Bell, A., & Thomson, K. (2014). Learning by observing a peer’s teaching situation. International Journal for Academic Development, 19(4), 318–329. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2013.848806