A couple of years ago, I was part of a pilot project/committee on documenting teaching efforts. The goal was to create a process that mirrored disciplinary research for faculty to use to demonstrate “a peer-reviewed contribution to teaching with real impact in the classroom.” After much deliberation, we called the process a Peer-Reviewed Exploration in Teaching or PRET for short. As the gold standard in research is peer-review, a PRET built on this idea. In this case, the peer group was other faculty, across different disciplines at the university.
As a participant, the process of doing a PRET encouraged quite a bit of reflection. The first part of the process was a proposal that linked specific learning objectives to an activity “that is grounded in pedagogical literature and designed to meet those learning objectives”. Although I’ve always felt that active learning is beneficial, thinking deeply (and putting into a proposal) why this particular activity (I was evaluating my use of the Statecraft simulation) should meet those particular learning objectives was more difficult than I thought. The peer feedback on this step was very useful in solidifying my thinking.
The process included peer observations of my class over a number of sessions – before, during, and after the activity. The observers also conducted a focus group with the students. The report that my peer observers produced from the observations and focus group was eye-opening. It also brought a new level to the debriefing process that we always say is so important with simulations.
Although the PRET formalized this process, I think the basic idea is generalizable and worth the effort. I could see an informal peer-to-peer exchange of proposals and observations work. It encouraged me to think about the goals of the activity in a more systematic way and it provided an outside perspective on whether the activity was meeting these learning goals. As a peer reviewer of other faculty, I learned quite a bit about what active learning looked like in other disciplines and adopted some new ideas.