Peer-reviewing university teachers

Why we need it, how to do it

Denise Chalmers (UWA) addresses the issue in one of the last learning and teaching fellow reports, (quietly) published by the feds.

She proposes ExPeRT, a new model for external peer review of teaching, building on the Australian University Teaching Criteria and Standards. Following a trial of the model she specifies five core characteristics for a reviewing system.

* external reviews

* expert peer reviewers

* initial and ongoing training of assessors, “to ensure the continued rigour of the model”

* sustainability, “to maintain the process as a key component of quality assurance”

* relevance, “the ExPeRT model will provide reviewers that can rigorously assess teaching and learning quality against a range of criteria.”

Why do it: “There would seem to be significant scope for this development, particularly as the review and assessment of promotion applications from academics whose contributions largely focus on their contributions to teaching and learning and associated scholarly activities,” Professor Chalmers suggests.

As for critics: Professor Chalmers acknowledges opponents who suggest standards erode professional autonomy and require academics to work to observable and measurable standards. “Such critiques fail to distinguish between ‘process’ and ‘product’. The ‘product’ of standards can be applied in ways that facilitate or inhibit educational improvements and teacher creativity. In short, it is not standards that are the problem, it is the way that they are used that matters.”

There’s another reason: “Governments and major stakeholders in the sector continue to express concern about the quality of teaching in our higher education institutions. The commitment of tertiary institutions to reward and recognise teaching has been elusive, despite progress being made in the development of teaching criteria and the identification of appropriate evidence of teaching excellence.”


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