Sunday, September 9, 2012

Peer reviewed teaching

Peer Review by AJC1, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  AJC1

In a discussion at the EFQUEL Innovation Forum in Granada this week we talked about the difficulties of creating a sharing culture in education. Teachers are traditionally expected to be self-sufficient; creating their own courses, managing their classes and writing their own course material. The idea of sharing your material with other teachers is still viewed with suspicion and sometimes even hostility. Letting other teachers and students see your material or watch your lessons and then provide feedback is the exception rather than the rule.

Let’s contrast this private and closed practice with established academic research practice. Research is constantly subjected to peer review and must be thoroughly referenced and justified. Once published you can expect critical review and debate around your conclusions. Isn’t it strange that the rules for research are not applied in the equally academic discipline of teaching? Why are learning resources hidden away on teachers’ hard drives or in desk drawers rather than being made accessible and subject to peer review and open for reuse?

The arguments for opening up educational and making resources open and freely available should focus on enabling a peer review system for teaching and learning. If courses are more open then students will be able to interact with other experts and lessen the dependency on one teacher whose view will inevitably be limited. If material is open it is reviewed and rated by students and teachers. The best material will be recommended, enhanced and reused. Poor material will often get feedback for improvement or at worst be ignored. The same goes for recorded lectures. We create a dynamic quality assurance system built around open discussion. Other more academic quality criteria can of course also be applied to the process but the principle is that openness can lead to higher quality.

Opening up our teaching for review and criticism is not a revolutionary idea. It is simply applying the rigour of research review to the field of teaching which for too long has been allowed to hide from public view. If we want to improve the quality of education, classroom or online, then we must dare to share.

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