In our intellectual work as researchers, peer review is a routine and communal habit that typically goes unquestioned. We invite our research communities to intervene in how we shape research problems for investigation, in our choices about theories, methodologies and methods, in our research designs, in our findings, analyses and truth claims. Yet in learning, teaching and curriculum, peer review still occupies ambivalent status, despite an extensive scholarly literature and evidence of the practical and developmental benefits for staff.
For instance, we know that peer review of teaching and curriculum – done collegially – can offer staff a fresh take on student engagement, can build confidence in the quality of a teacher’s educational judgement, and can provide additional evidence for promotion or a teaching award. However, challenges remain for universities. Many local initiatives start out as supportive conversations between colleagues but are then hard to scale or systematise. There can be anxiety about exposing our teaching ‘problems’ to colleagues. There are questions about who has the expertise to review, and then there is uncertainty about the potential for peer review judgements to circulate as metrics that punish staff rather than encourage a process of open, collaborative and communal inquiry.
For all these reasons, peer review of learning, teaching and curriculum requires good, sharp, and intelligent interrogation. We need to explore peer review models, test the evidence, hear about peoples’ experiences, come to grips with the practical and systems challenges, and understand the learning gains. In short, we need to apply our inquiring minds as researchers to the question of the peer review of learning, teaching and curriculum and what it might look like, and do for us, at Western! This will entail a broader approach to peer review than the traditional focus on teaching and the teacher in classroom settings. It will need to encompass practices such as the peer review of curriculum decision-making, resources and digital artefacts – such as flipped learning, educational design, and partnership pedagogies. It will involve us in conversation about benchmarking assessment criteria, standards and processes for moderation. And perhaps most radically, it will encourage us to consider how we might extend our curriculum partnership with students to teach them about, and involve them in, forms of peer review. All these practices can come alive under thoughtful and deliberative peer review.