School-based activities often form the core of teaching development with collegial debate and discussion within the context of the issue/module/course giving rise to new ideas and adoption of recognised good practice. Much of this discussion takes place informally – in the coffee bar or corridor, for example, with school "away day" events providing a more formal setting to address a defined agenda and reach conclusions about local practice.
Peer observation of teaching has long been established as a development activity based on collegiality. More recently the practice has been widened to encourage the discussion of course design and assessment, as well as teaching, and a renaming to peer review reflects this broader scope. The emphasis on review rather than observation also foregrounds the collaborative nature of the process and reduces an apparent judgemental aspect.
Peer review tends to be most useful to participants when:
the reviewee takes control by deciding what will be reviewed and what input would be helpful
the reviewer acts as a critical friend asking questions and offering constructive suggestions
the activity relates to a wider school agenda so that new insights might be shared
the review supports an existing workload.
An appropriate review partner might be somebody more experienced in a particular teaching area (such as using technology or supervising postgraduates) or might be somebody with shared development aims. Working with a colleague from another discipline can help focus on methods and outcomes rather than content, and can open the door to new techniques that have proven effective in a different context.
Quality assurance and quality enhancement
Quality assurance processes including Annual Monitoring and School Review are intended to highlight areas that serve as examples of good practice across the University, and areas that would benefit most from development. A School's development agenda is likely to focus on these areas.