Peer review of teaching

Vice Dean M. Sundset initiated the project “From peer observation of teaching to peer review of teaching” and applied on behalf of the BFE faculty for development money to develop the concept of “peer review of teaching” in practice. We may consider the Slusen project (Result and BFE) a pilot where over 10 teachers teaching biology at the bachelor level attended in an organized peer observation of teaching in autumn 2016.

Our teaching gets professionalized when we allow critical evaluation by peers, so that we may develop, discuss, find alternative approaches and yield better quality. This all contributes to the scholarship of teaching (Schulman 2011). The scientific approach is the basis for the further development of peer supervision as a tool to “peer review of teaching” (Thomas et al. 2014). In the proposal, we did not describe the method of how to implement this at BFE, so below I present an iterative spiral development approach, based on how design happens in modern engineering and application development projects (see also YouTube video on this).

Bernstein (2008) summarizes the book by Hutchings (1995) “From idea to prototype” by describing how three interactions guided by a set of defined questions are successfully applied. The idea develops to a prototype in the process of engaging teachers in the scholarly development.

This approach reminded me of the spiral model introduced by Boehm in 1986 which we have used in some EU projects. In complex multi-stage development processes it is often very difficult to get one development phase “perfect” before moving on to the next phase. Weaknesses, limitations and potential for improvement are often discovered only in the next chronological phase in the development process when “going back” may be difficult. For this reason, I suggest to develop our templates and guidelines for peer review of teaching in an iterative process, using the spiral development model commonly used in complex development projects.

The development of the main outcomes, the peer review template and the guidelines, will happen in a process that take notice of usual system development theory, with requirement analysis, system description, prototyping and implementation. The spiral model is a development process combining elements of both design and prototyping-in-stages, in an effort to combine advantages of top-down and bottom-up concepts (Figure 1 a).

The principles that the spiral model builds upon have also been applied in the human rights area where relevant actors working in an international network and bound by shared values develop towards a common goal (Risse et. al 1999). Here the focus is on the process (not the product) that builds understanding and acceptance of human rights in the country or region where human rights are implemented or revitalised. The above examples shows that the spiral model approach is not only a good approach for the development of templates and guidelines for peer review of teaching, but also provides an iterative process that develops a collegial attitude and contributes to the scholarship of teaching and learning at the faculty.

a b

Figure 1. The spiral model to be applied in the development of template and guidelines for peer review of teaching, and allowing for scholarly teaching and learning at BFE. We will define the concept by utilising existing templates, guidelines and questions and by visiting literature. We design the first prototype and apply it in a peer review context, we discuss the feasibility and adjust the template and the guidelines before they are evaluated by someone external e.g. Result. We improve the product together with colleagues and present the second prototype. The iterations continue until we are satisfied with the products or as a continuous process building the teaching environment (a). For the individual such a systematic and conscious development may be seen as a spiral within the three dimensional cone of lifelong learning described in my teaching philosophy (b).


Bernstein D 2008. Peer Review and Evaluation of the Intellectual Work of Teaching, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 40:2, 48-51, DOI: 10.3200/ CHNG.40.2.48-51

Boehm, B 1986. A spiral model of software development and enhancement, ACM SIGSOFT Software Engineering Notes, v.11 n.4, p.14-24, August 1986.

Hutchings, P (ed.) 1995. From idea to prototype: The peer review of teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Risse T, Ropp S, Sikkink K. 1999. The Socialization of International Human Rights Norms into Domestic Practices, The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change, Cambridge University Press.

Shulman L. 2011. “Feature Essays: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: A Personal Account and Reflection,” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Vol. 5: No. 1, Article 30.

Thomas S, Ting Chie Q. 2014. Education: An Application of the SWOT Framework A Qualitative Review of Literature on Peer Review of Teaching in Higher. Review of Educational Research 84(1): 112-159.