« Performance Pay? | Main | Boosting Math and Science »

The Pros and Cons of Peer Review

| 11 Comments

A program that puts teachers in charge of evaluating and helping some of their own will get a trial run in Chicago starting next fall. ("Teachers to Conduct Peer Reviews in Chicago," Jan. 25, 2006.) While the practice of peer review has been hailed as a success in some districts—in states such as Ohio, New York and Minnesota—it remains a divisive issue among administrators and educators.

Administrators are wary of giving up their legal responsibility for determining employment, while union leaders don't want to foster divisions in the teacher corps.

Does peer review undermine administrative control? Will it create conflict and distrust amongst teachers? Or is it an efficient and beneficial form of evaluation?

11 Comments

Peer Review can be a valuable tool for individual professional growth and for school wide development. It still seems to me after several years in education that teachers normally work in isolation and that few of us really know and understand what is happening in the classroom besides ours.

One of the most enriching aspects of attending seminars or graduate programs, at least from my perspective, is precisely the opportunity to share and critique teaching practices and strategies with other colleagues.

However, one must not forget that schools are communities and that practices such as peer review can easily destroy relationships between colleagues. In that sense, clear guidelines, expectations and consequences are absolutely neccessary. Above all, one must have a very clear purpose that is commonly known and at the very least acknowledged by all participants.

Columbus Public Schools has one of the oldest and best peer evaluation programs in the country. It is known as PAR and as a former PAR Consultant that evaluated teachers for renewal at the end of their first year of teaching, It is welcomed and appreciated by the first year teachers and administrators. Administraors do not have the time mentor, support, advise and evaluate first year teachers. I had 21 teachers that I vivisted once a week or more every week and no only evaluated, but mentored and supported with ideas and suggestions.Many of my teachers stated that if they had not had my assistance, they would probably have left the profession. The PAR program is also the first in line to see teachers that for safety reasons should not be in the classroom. Sometimes even in the first months of school, teachers have been removed that might have lingered in other school systems for years.
Our teachers are evaluated using the Ohio Department of Education standards from PRAXIS.
It has been very beneficial for our school system.

Peer reviews could be a wonderful tool to assess one's practice and evaluate one's performance as long as those doing the review are paired wisely with those who they are reviewing. A panel review would greatly appreciated (a panel which reflects a diverse group of social workers). I don't feel that a review completed by any one of my peers would be as valuable to me as one that has been conducted by a group of my peers.

Also, I would be leary of how such review would be utilized. Sounds like yet another political ploy of the haves and the have nots or the experienced vs. those who are not and in the those who are well liked and those who are not.

Peer reviews could be a wonderful tool to assess one's practice and evaluate one's performance as long as those doing the review are paired wisely with those who they are reviewing. A panel review would greatly appreciated (a panel which reflects a diverse group of social workers). I don't feel that a review completed by any one of my peers would be as valuable to me as one that has been conducted by a group of my peers.

Also, I would be leary of how such review would be utilized. Sounds like yet another political ploy of the haves and the have nots or the experienced vs. those who are not and those who are well liked and those who are not.

Just today I had to comfort a colleague of mine who recently (since August of '05)was placed in a peer review position at our school. This has been a horrible experience for her.
Why do teachers always need to be "fixed" or become "new and improved"? I believe we need to create support systems for our teachers.
Teachers are beautiful people and I wish for once we could just give them back just a small piece of what they give to our kids each day.

It's interesting to note that many teachers have a similar reaction to their administrators as patients do to their doctors. I find that, for the most part, a new or developing teacher feels more comfortable sharing openly and freely with a mentor teacher who has gone through the same experiences with regard to "learning the ropes". Now, with the added pressure of accountability, it is important to make new teachers see themselves as worthy, capable, and able to master the many challenges that exist in the world of education. Most teachers submit themselves to an extensive self-assessment review (especially now in the varied teacher preparation programs). When I was in training, we had to keep an ongoing and thorough journal of our day to day experiences while we were in the practicum portion of our learning. Being a reflective practitioner is an important piece of growth as a teacher and an excellent model for our students to reflect and assess their own learning.

I am in my second year of a three year assignment as a consulting Teacher for new teachers in our PAR program in our county school system. Our program has been so successful that last year we began a PAR program for new principals and this year it expanded for non-professional staff as well. I really enjoy working with new teachers, not only giving advice and recommendations. The most joy comes from working with the teachers and letting them know what they are doing well so that they can continue and expand their good practices. Getting quality feedback helps strengthen them. In all the demands of teaching they hear what is good and what to continue. Our program is a joint program between the county and the union. For the most part, this has been a very successful program. It is helpful also in helping some teachers realize perhaps they are in the wrong profession since the emphasis is on student learning and what is good for students. That is where the emphasis needs to be.

More accountability and instructional improvement can be better achieved through small group collaborative research. Peer Review in many respects substitutes teachers for administrators. I suspect that there would only be marginal changes in evaluation instruments and language. Research is an opportunity for continuous improvement, as opposed to an observation with comments conducted once or twice a year.

Roberto Garcia

My department has found that peer to peer observations were more beneficial. We have shared techniques, as well as offered constructive criticims. My department member do not look at this as a chore, but a method to observe other teaching methods and styles.

My question to others is how do your unions look upon peer to peer observations?

We are permitted to submit our observations to the principal for file only if it is a satisfactory report.

It is nice to see comments touting the positive effects of peer review. I find it a sad state of affairs that some teachers would be afraid thier fellow teachers would do a review unfairly. I also find it unfortunate that some teachers would be cruel in reviewing thier associates.

Peer review can allow teachers to see how others are doing in thier classes, it can promote collaboration, it can be done with the mentoring function for new teachers to offer support. Peer review seems to have a number of potential benefits.

There are always situations when someone desires to break down a fellow associate, but this is where leadership comes in. Good administrators and leaders can help to direct the peer review so as to minimize the adversarial attitude.

I dont' believe it undermines the administrators. Would it really be true that peer review excludes any input from administrators? They afterall should know what is going on with the teachers in thier schools.

Peer review is a good thing. Generally, experienced teachers are more knowledgeable about good teaching practices than administrators. However, peer review should not become just another burden on teachers who already have too much work, or provide an escape from responsibility for administrators who give nothing else up. Accommodations should be made for it, and only those who volunteer for the extra responsibility should do it.

Further, peer review might – under the right circumstances – lead to the development of a true sense of community within a given school, where teachers guide each other in cooperative (rather than punitive) ways. In this case, a school culture could develop that shapes and defines what teaching in that school is all about.

Peer review, along with some other changes, may even eventually lead to a reorganization of school, where teaching comes to be seen as a craft-like profession (with apprentices, journeymen, and masters – all identified through work-related capabilities – rather than training and credentialing). If this happens, teaching could become like other professional practices, where the professionals supervise each others’ work, and hire non-professional administrators to make sure the lights work, the trash is removed, and the bills are paid. That is, like lawyers’ and doctors’ practices work now.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Barry McGhan, Center for Public School Renewal: Peer review is a good thing. Generally, experienced teachers are read more
  • Alisa Hunt - Grad Student: It is nice to see comments touting the positive effects read more
  • Karen Koch: My department has found that peer to peer observations were read more
  • Roberto Garcia: More accountability and instructional improvement can be better achieved through read more
  • Elinor Boyce, Special Education Consulting Teacher: I am in my second year of a three year read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

Pages