Fostering Scholarly Approaches to Peer Review of Teaching in a Research-Intensive University

Fostering Scholarly Approaches to Peer Review of Teaching in a Research-Intensive University

Harry Hubball (University of British Columbia, Canada), Anthony Clarke (University of British Columbia, Canada) and Daniel D. Pratt (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3661-3.ch012

Abstract

This chapter examines a recently launched institutional initiative around scholarly approaches to summative and formative peer-review of teaching within and across the disciplines at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. The peer-review of teaching initiative, led by a team of UBC national teaching fellows, was fuelled by institutional concerns about the quality of student learning experiences and the effectiveness of teaching in a multi-disciplinary research-intensive university context. Canadian universities have long recognized the importance of attending to the evaluation of teaching practices in their particular context; however, the enactment of localized scholarship directed at these practices remains very much in its infancy. Traditional approaches to the evaluation of university teaching have often resulted in the over-reliance on student evaluation of teaching data and/or ad-hoc peer-review of teaching practices with numerous accounts of methodological shortcomings that tend to yield less useful (and less authentic) data. Issues addressed in this chapter include contemporary approaches to the evaluation of teaching in higher education, faculty “buy-in” and the evaluation of teaching in a research-intensive university, scholarly approaches to summative and formative Performance Reviews of Teaching (PRT), faculty-specific engagement in summative and formative (informal to formal) PRT training and implementation, and strategic institutional supports (funding, expertise, mentoring, technological resources).
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Introduction

Historically, inadequate means of evaluating teaching have undermined the consideration of teaching in tenure, promotion, and re-appointment cases within research-intensive universities (Arai et al, 2007; Elen, Lindblom-Ylänne, & Clement, 2007; Hammersley-Fletcher & Orsmond, 2004; Shulman, 2011). For the most part, this has been due to the lack of rigour, authenticity, and credibility in peer reviews of teaching. Peer Reviews of Teaching (PRT) for high-stakes decisions (e.g., consideration for tenure and promotion) face a number of challenges (Chism, 2007; Harris, Farrell, Bell, Devlin, & James, 2008; Hubball & Clarke, 2011; Seldin & Associates, 2006), including:

  • Lack of systematically prepared and knowledgeable assessors.

  • Confusion about the relationship and distinction between formative and summative PRT.

  • Exclusive reliance on classroom observations by peers or student evaluations of teaching.

  • Methodological shortcomings that result in less less authentic and credible data.

  • Potential conflict of interest associated with peers acting as reviewers.

This chapter describes an institutional initiative intended to address many of these historical shortcomings through the development of scholarly, and therefore more credible, approaches to the PRT within and across the disciplines at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada.

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Context For Prt At The University Of British Columbia, Canada

As a research-intensive university, the University of British Columbia educates a student population of 50,000 and has over 250 graduate degree programs with 12 Faculties, 2 Colleges (Interdisciplinary Studies and Health Disciplines), and multiple Schools (see http://www.ubc.ca/). It is routinely ranked among the top 30 universities in world and among the top 3 in Canada (Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 2011). Therefore, if peer review of teaching is to be accepted for tenure and promotion decisions, it must be consistent with the standards of quality that are characteristic of scholarly work across the university. For this to happen, data from PRT must be rigorous and credible, ideally addressing all of the challenges above. However, while UBC has long recognized the importance of student evaluation of teaching, discipline-specific scholarly approaches to PRT remains very much in their infancy (Glassic, Huber, & Maefoff, 1997; Hubball & Clarke, 2010; Kanuka, 2011; University of British Columbia, 2009b).

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