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Peer Dialogue

A group of Fellows, under the leadership of Dr Jane Bryan (Law) and Dr Catherine Bennett (Health Science), started a process of evaluating different processes of peer review of teaching.

At Warwick, the formal peer review process concentrated solely on teaching observations, which may not always seem effective as a means of teaching enhancement. Furthermore, the uptake across campus was mixed: while some departments and centres had long-standing systems in place, others were eager to innovate their current approach.

In various higher education institutions, teaching observation is one of the approaches to peer review, with semi-structured peer evaluation of other teaching practices (use of assessment methods, feedback practices, online learning approaches, use of technologies for teaching, etc.) being used as an alternative.

The WIHEA Peer Dialogue Learning Circle evaluated current systems and their perceived effectiveness and explored peer review processes for teaching in place at other institutions.

As a result of extensive discussions and research, the Learning Circle prepared a report to the University which has led to a clarification on the policy of Peer Dialogue (as it will henceforth be known) and plans to implement schemes across all departments to be in operational by October 2020.

Senate approved policy on Peer Dialogue in July 2019. The key points of which are below:

The University puts in place a number of mechanisms to support the initial and ongoing development of
individual teaching practice. One such mechanism commonly recognised in UK higher education is the
observation of teaching practice by peers in order to inform a member of staff’s own reflection and
enhancement. This policy sets out the University’s approach to and expectations around this following a
period of policy development undertaken by a WIHEA Learning Circle on Peer Observation and as
approved by Senate in June 2019.

Policy expectations
The University has formally agreed the following as minimum expectations:
1. The University shall operate ‘Peer Dialogue on Teaching’ schemes in each academic department to
support the development of individual teaching practice. Academic departments may include peer
observation of teaching or learning resources within their Peer Dialogue on Teaching schemes but this
may be supplemented or replaced by other forms of discussion around teaching and teaching practice.
2. The University requires all staff who teach on foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate taught
courses to participate at least annually in Peer Dialogue on Teaching activities, either as an observee,
an observer, a participant in discussions relating to enhancement of teaching practice, or similar, or any
combination of these. It is normally expected that hourly paid staff and PGR students who teach and
make a substantial contribution to a module are included in peer dialogue arrangements.
3. Each academic department shall articulate and agree the detail of its Peer Dialogue on Teaching
scheme, ensuring that the scheme meets the policy expectations above and is informed by the guiding
principles below. Details of the scheme shall be communicated effectively to both students and staff to
ensure confidence in peer dialogue as the basis for enhancing quality, and shall be shared with the
University’s Education Policy and Quality team when established and when changed.

Guiding principles
Based on extensive research of academic literature on peer observation and consultation within the
University, the following guiding principles have been formally agreed and should normally inform the
nature and operationalisation of each academic department’s scheme:
4. Peer Dialogue on Teaching schemes should be formative in nature and place emphasis on their
potential for staff development in an environment where individuals learn from each other, and the wider
teaching community, to enhance the student experience. There should be a clear separation between
Peer Dialogue on Teaching as a formative, teacher development process and other, separate systems
of quality assurance and performance management.
5. Peer Dialogue on Teaching schemes should be embedded within a culture that values teaching, and
such schemes should sit alongside other measures designed to enhance teaching practice and provide
support for members of staff who teach.
6. Peer Dialogue on Teaching reports should be kept confidential to participants, although a record that
Peer Dialogue on Teaching has taken place should be required by the Department.
a. Departments could consider using a form to record Peer Dialogue on Teaching participation that
allows participants to record an agreed statement of examples of good practice or requests for
further support/development.
b. Participants should be permitted to use Peer Dialogue on Teaching reports in applications for
promotion, HEA fellowship and similar, and in nominations for the Warwick Award for Teaching
Excellence (WATE), provided this is done with due respect for the other participants in the Peer
Dialogue on Teaching process.
7. Examples of good practice emerging from Peer Dialogue on Teaching could usefully be disseminated,
with the consent of participants, across the department within which the activity took place, and more
8. Participants should be encouraged to reflect upon the insights gained from Peer Dialogue on Teaching
and to discuss developmental opportunities and further support for teaching, for example, in their
annual Personal Development Review (PDR) meeting

The full policy document is below:

  Peer Dialogue on Teaching Policy


Current members of this circle:

  • Jane Bryan (Lead)
  • Catherine Bennett (Lead)
  • Andy Clarke
  • Gill Cooke
  • Imogen Davies
  • Rebecca Freeman
  • Graeme Knowles
  • Alyson Quinn
  • Juliet Raynesford
  • Leanne Williams
  • Elena Riva