Peer Review Guide

This guide explains why scholarly peer review of teaching is important and the general principles and expectations of the review process at Massey University.

Why Peer Review

Massey University is committed to providing an exceptional and distinctive learning experience for all students. As part of this commitment we have the choice of centrally policing the quality of our paper offerings or promoting a culture of quality where staff and discipline groups take responsibility for making continuous enhancements to their teaching and paper design.

Peer review is playing an increasingly central role in providing constructive feedback about the quality of teaching within university environments. After all, peer review has been the long-accepted method of judging the quality of scholarly activity. In recent years, university-level teaching has been reconceptualised in terms of the notion of scholarship and this has brought with it the need to include the views of peers in decisions about quality.

Principles of Peer Review

At Massey University we believe peer review must be owned and managed by academic staff as opposed to being centrally driven and monitored. This is the fundamental principle of peer review. It means that individual staff have responsibility for key decisions about peer review, including who should undertake the review, what type of review is appropriate and what should happen after the review.

Accordingly, feedback provided through the peer review process remains confidential to the individual unless they decide to share the outcomes for purposes of evaluation, performance review, promotion or teaching awards.

Types of Peer Review

Peer review can take many forms. There are two main types of peer review: formative and summative. Formative reviews are focused on gaining information for the purposes of the ongoing improvement of teaching and course design. Summative reviews have a particular endpoint in mind and mainly focus on the demonstration of quality in support of processes such as promotion and programme evaluation.

Although the two types are not mutually exclusive, the focus is on formative peer reviews as summative reviews already take place as part of the University's five-yearly programme review cycle. To support staff in meeting their professional obligation we have defined three levels of formative peer review: 

Paper Design Review before a paper or course is taught;
Focused Teaching Review on some aspect of the course during paper delivery; 
Comprehensive Review of all aspects of teaching and course design before, during and after the paper is offered.

Most peer reviews will adopt a light paper design approach. However, focused peer reviews can be conducted on any aspect of teaching, including small group teaching, studio teaching, laboratory teaching, lecturing, assessment, and so on. Within these categories focused peer reviews may give a particular emphasis to quite confined areas such as the effective questioning in a classroom setting or the use of a discussion forum in online teaching. Comprehensive peer reviews provide an opportunity to comment on the ways in which various dimensions of teaching and course design are brought together to support effective practice.

Participation in Peer Review

The fundamental principle of academic ownership of peer review does not mean that the process is optional as the continuous enhancement of teaching quality is a professional responsibility of all staff. To support a culture of quality there is an expectation that all staff participate in regular scholarly peer review of their teaching and paper design—as both reviewer and reviewee. Peer review of teaching is a key part of the University’s wider quality enhancement framework. Importantly, the number of papers which have undergone peer review on an annual basis is used as an institutional quality indicator. Currently this information is collected through the Stream Completion Checklist.  


Frequency of Peer Review

The frequency of formative peer review depends on the type of review but as a rule every paper offering should be reviewed on a three yearly cycle. This expectation aligns with the requirements of formal student evaluation of teaching. However, we encourage staff to undertake light paper design reviews on a more regular basis as part of Massey’s commitment to quality enhancement. The additional workload requirements of peer review can be managed if each academic staff member requests and conducts one peer review a year. Evidence suggests the benefits of peer review for both reviewees and reviewers outweigh time devoted to this task.

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