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FORMATIVE PEER REVIEW OF TEACHING
One of the hallmarks of an effective teacher is a commitment to reflection and continuous
improvement; good teachers are constantly noting what works and what doesn’t and thinking
about how to do things a little better next time. A powerful but often under-utilized
resource in this improvement cycle is external feedback from colleagues. Sadly, although
faculty are used to collaborating and soliciting feedback in order to ensure the quality
of their research, we often approach teaching as if we were on a deserted island,
reinventing wheels and forgetting that we are surrounded by people building the same
wheels from whom we can learn and receive assistance. Inviting peers and colleagues
to review our teaching can be scary but can often provide insights that we might never
discover on our own.
The resources on this page are intended to help instructors interested in giving and
receiving this external feedback on teaching. Although the Director of the Center
for Teaching and Learning is available for individual consultations with faculty (including
classroom observations), the rubrics provided here can be used by anyone to review
teaching performance and materials (including self-evaluation). These rubrics are
based on the large and growing literature in the scholarship of teaching and learning
that identifies specific, observable behaviors and characteristics of effective teachers.
Additional resources intended specifically for RTP reviewers can be found on the page
on Teaching Effectiveness in RTP.
The materials here are intended for formative review (if you are not familiar with
formative versus summative, see below). In practice, the distinction between formative
and summative evaluation is not always clear-cut. For example, student evaluations
are required to be used in RTP decisions (summative) but of course, often provide
information that instructors can use to improve the course (formative). However, when
inviting peers to review one’s teaching, it is important to be clear whether the intention
is formative or summative. For summative evaluation, it is imperative that evaluators
consider multiple sources of information, using multiple methods to gather the information
and over multiple points in time.
Whether a review involves classroom observation, assignments or other course materials,
effective reviews generally follow a similar process:
The following suggestions will help maximize the usefulness of peer reviews:
[adapted from the Center for University Teaching, Learning and Assessment, University
of West Florida]
In Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook (2007), Nancy Chism discusses the difference between formative and summative evaluation
of teaching as follows:
“Within the context of teacher evaluation, the term formative evaluation describes
activities that provide teachers with information that they can use to improve their
teaching. The information is intended for their personal use, rather than for public
inspection, and thus is private and confidential. The information should be rich in
detail so that teachers can obtain clear insights in the nature of their teaching
strengths and weaknesses. Often, text comments or a multitude of very specific rating
items tied to course goals and practices will be employed to provide this… Formative
evaluation is informal, ongoing, and wide-ranging. It is the basis for the development
of effective teaching throughout one’s career.
In contrast, summative evaluation of teaching focuses on information needed for a
personnel decision – for example, hiring, promotion, tenure, merit pay. Consequently,
the information is for public inspection rather than for the individual faculty member.
Since it is not intended to provide rich and detailed data for the improvement of
teaching, it is often more general and comparative in nature than data for formative
evaluation… The information should provide comparative information as well, enabling
the evaluator to determine the quality of the teaching performance with respect to
the performance of other peers… The attempt is to judge merit or worth to the institution
generally. Summative evaluation, in contrast to formative evaluation, is conducted
at given intervals, such as annual or promotion and tenure reviews.” [p5]
The materials on this page can be used, or adapted, for summative use. However, for
summative evaluation, it is imperative that evaluators consider multiple sources of
information, using multiple methods to gather the information and over multiple points
In order to have peers review an online course, the instructor must give reviewers
access to their Blackboard site. The easiest way to do this is to add them as an ‘observer’
(add user and set role to Observer).
Note that Instructional Technology Services facilitates the Blended and Online Learning and Teaching (BOLT) program, in which participants use the QOLT rubric to evaluate their courses.