British Educational Research Association Conference Paper 2011_peer_supported_review_evaluation
Peer Supported Review Evaluation
(PSR) - An inclusive approach to
professional development in learning,
teaching and assessment
Sheffield Hallam University
Rajesh Dhimar - email@example.com
• In 2004, Academic Development Committee (ADC) approved a
framework for Peer Supported Review of Learning, Teaching
• In 2006, ADC advised on the paper, The Implementation of
Peer Supported Review of Learning, Teaching and
• In January 2010, ADC reviewed Peer Supported Review:
Update and Overview of Activity March-December 2010
• In May 2010, ADC approved the Peer Supported Review Policy
for Academic and Learning Support Staff. This policy provides a
definition and key principles underpinning PSR. It forms part of the
implementation of Professional Standards in Teaching and
Learning: an integrated approach to appraisal, professional
development and peer supported review, endorsed by ADC in
• The Professional Standards Steering Group has responsibility for
the development, implementation and evaluation of the Professional
This work was supported and resourced by key
staff from the Learning and Teaching Institute and
those with PSR responsibility at Faculty and/or
• The University's Corporate Plan (2008-2013); sections 2
(Improving the Student Experience) and 5 (Managing and
Developing our People).
• SHU QAA Institutional Audit (2010), through provision of
evidence to address the previous QAA Institutional Audit (2005)
which required the University to "reassess how the staff appraisal
and peer supported review of Learning, Teaching and
Assessment systems might be more effectively used for the
assurance of teaching quality in addition to the enhancement of
Key Reference Points
Key reference points cont...
• UK Professional Standards Framework (HEA, 2006)
• DIUS Inquiry into Students and Universities (October 2008)
• Future workforce for HE (HEFCE commissioned report
• The Higher Education Academy reports on Reward and
Recognition of Teaching in HE (February and December
• The outcomes from this evaluation paper will feed into the
further development and implementation of the PSR
• The outcomes will be shared with relevant Faculty and
• Monitoring will be through regular updates, reporting to
ADC and the Improving Student Experience Professional
Dissemination, Implementation and
• information on the background and context of PSR
• key findings from an evaluation into the practice of PSR
• recommendations for the enhancement of PSR
Evaluation of Peer Supported
Review (PSR): 2009/2010
• Following the Peer Supported Review of Learning, Teaching
and Assessment policy in 2004, a number of evaluations
(including HWB, 2004/5 and D&S, 2008/9 identified variable
practice. The subsequent rejuvenation of PSR arose from wider
university discussions and evaluation during 2009, building on
existing effective practice.
• This resulted in a refreshed policy, Peer Supported Review
Policy for Academic and Learning Support Staff (May 2010),
which defined PSR as:
….. a developmental process through which individuals review,
reflect on and enhance their practice, with the support of colleagues.
Background and context
The aims of Peer Supported Review are to: -
promote and enhance the scholarship of
learning and teaching through reflective
practice - improve the quality of student
learning through a process of review and
development of professional practice.
The main aims of the evaluation were to:
• capture the current range of PSR activity and experience
across the University
• provide evidence to inform the development of PSR
policy and practice
• provide evidence for institutional objectives in the
Corporate Plan (2008-13)
• provide information for internal and external
The 2010 Evaluation
The evaluation was conducted in the Faculties of Health and
Wellbeing (HWB), Arts, Computing, Engineering and
Sciences (ACES) and Student and Learning Services (SLS).
The Faculty of Development and Society (D&S) had an
external evaluator from the HEA and Sheffield Business
School (SBS) had carried out their own evaluation.
• an online survey in
Blackboard (VLE) for
colleagues involved in the
process. This included
questions on staff profiles;
PSR groups and process;
topics and focus; reflection;
engagement; impact; issues
• semi-structured interviews with
staff in key roles, including Heads
of Department; Heads of Learning,
Teaching and Assessment (LTA);
Heads of Quality; LTA leads; Line
Managers. Topics covered staff
roles and responsibilities; PSR
structure and processes; issues
and benefits; overview of practice
and impacts; future plans.
The evaluation began in June 2010
• PSR is perceived to be a positive and constructive approach to the Professional
Development of academic practice, providing opportunity and structure within
which to develop practice. Its core principles were validated and visible in
• PSR was seen as an opportunity to confirm and validate reflective practice, and
for colleagues to more openly engage with learning and teaching. The vast
majority of respondents felt their practice had improved.
• There were observations that some staff have a history of reflecting on their
practice and discussing teaching with colleagues; thus, change/development
already occurs. The challenge is to use PSR to build on existing practice and
move developments on further.
1.Response to Peer Supported Review
• PSR groups seemed to work well as a mechanism for support and collegiality. A
wide variety of models was illustrated, each designed according to context and
need. Some were 'manufactured', others self-selecting and of varying sizes. They
were seen as flexible and adaptable.
• Most groups formed within their subject area, with few examples of cross-
• Associate Lecturers, Part-time and Technical staff were rarely included in PSR
• PSR groups used a variety of activities to support their PSR colleagues, most
- identifying useful resources/ideas
- helping with reflection and evaluating practices
- giving feedback e.g. on materials; e-learning approaches; teaching
- observing teaching.
2. PSR Groups and Activity
• Whist many interviewees felt staff had already developed the necessary
skills e.g. reflection; critical friendship; giving feedback; observing
colleagues, it was felt that further guidance would be useful.
• Clear triggers informed PSR activities, many relating to university
activities and processes e.g.:
- students' feedback e.g. NSS; first year experience; course committees
- module/course review (often in teams)
• Some staff, individually or as a group, had recorded their own
- paper-based materials e.g. Portfolio; learning diary; reflective writings
- electronic resources e.g. group wiki; web-based personal portfolio; blogs.
PSR Groups and Activity…
• The choice of topic was primarily based on personal reflection, generally in
relation to Subject/Departmental contexts. The most effective process of
determining topic seems to start with a collegial approach, with discussion
and exploration of relevant possibilities.
• As might be expected, actual topics varied considerably, according to
context. The most common were:
- e-learning e.g. audio feedback; Web2.0; mobile learning; electronic
- assessment and feedback e.g. peer assessment; peer feedback; re-design
- curriculum development e.g. employability skills; incorporating research
- teaching e.g. large groups; changing approach to reduce dependency.
PSR Groups and Activity…
• At all levels, staff identified current or potential links between
PSR and existing University/Faculty processes, commenting that
explicit connections and synchronisation are essential to the
success of PSR as a developmental tool. Examples included:
- Appraisal, Self-Managed Time, Work Planning
- Keep-in Touch meetings (KITs), Departmental/Subject Group
- Staff Development, Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
- Course design, Validation, Course/module evaluation
- Annual Quality Review.
3. PSR links with other processes
• There was clear consensus about the importance of explicitly connecting PSR
with Appraisals. This had occurred in some areas, although only half the
questionnaire respondents had experience of it.
• There was a strong view that following on from Appraisal, PSR should be clearly
identified within both Annual Work Planning and Self-Managed Time, and
align more with teaching loads. This had occurred in only a few areas.
• PSR was clearly connected with Professional Development, as a vehicle to
develop practice. PSR has enabled some Subject Groups to identify broad
professional development needs via the collation of information (PSR forms). This
enabled a more coherent professional development strategy at
• PSR was seen as a good source of evidence for Professional Body CPD
requirements and for continuing registration (often via a portfolio). There was no
duplication of activity reported, and some observations about complementary
activity. However, there were issues where CPD requirements focus on the
discipline e.g. for research-active staff.
PSR links with other processes…
Key enabling approaches included:
• individual ownership of the process and personal
• flexibility - designed to suit the purpose, the individual and
• understandable and transparent process
• dialogue with colleagues (including managers) and peer
• structurally visible PSR leads at differing levels
4. What helps it work?
• Dissemination was identified as a key activity in the PSR process, for
sharing ideas and practice, 'closing the loop', deeper reflection and
developing greater collegiality. This occurred at different levels,
Faculty/Department/Subject, and included:
- Faculty LTA conferences and showcase events
- Subject Group Away days; staff meetings; collective course reviews
• In general, the paper-work and forms were seen as minimal, appropriate
and working well. Issues related to avoiding a 'tick box' approach and
ensuring the information collected was used appropriately.
• Spreadsheets and visual diagrams were used to collate information
from the forms, and were usually accessible by LTA and Quality
Heads/co-ordinators, Subject Group Leaders and Line Managers. Cross-
departmental priorities/resources were identified.
What helps it work…
The main issues included:
• time and timeliness
o insufficient time. (However, some staff had 10 hours on work
o some complaints that the process started too late (Oct/Nov).
• lack of clarity of process and expectations e.g.:
- the perception that it is a management imposed process
- level of confidentiality within the process
- understanding and interpreting information about PSR; confusion
about the purpose and intended outcomes e.g. is it peer observation
- how best to support PSR group colleagues; responsibility and
5. What hinders?
• existing culture and practice within staff group. e.g.:
- level of collegiality, communication and openness
- motivation and engagement with LTA
- skills and confidence of staff
- staff identity - some see selves as practitioners first and
- how does it work for those who primarily undertake
• Actual impacts were difficult to ascertain as yet. The few identified
related more to staff than to students. Likely impacts and the most useful
aspects of PSR were:
- greater collegial working; team building; improved communication
- improving staff confidence and increasing engagement in LTA
- seeing reflection as a professional activity
- greater coherence - PSR feeds into departmental priorities.
with further benefits of:
- helping develop a culture of peer support
- encouraging and raising awareness of professional development
- staff questioning and evaluating practice
- giving recognition and value to teaching activities
- increasing accountability and quality.
6. Impacts and Plans
• Managers had clear plans to develop PSR, and raise its
profile. All were interested in practice elsewhere. Key areas for
development were to :
- develop cross Subject/Department/Faculty PSR activity
- further work with staff (groups and individuals; ALs; Technical staff)
- evaluate approaches and impacts
- improve information e.g. examples; documentation; dissemination
- develop links with other processes e.g. work planning; Appraisal;
- explore rewards and recognition.
Impacts and Plans…
The following recommendations have arisen from
comments and suggestions, and are intended to:
• maintain the momentum of PSR as a developmental tool
• clarify, improve and disseminate information and
• enable equity, accessibility and entitlement to engage
• increase engagement in areas where it is lower or under-
• Ensure PSR is a feature in Appraisal, as a core
aspect of Professional Development. Develop
guidance for Appraisers and Appraisees
• Annual Work Planning and Personal Scholarly
Activity/Self-Managed Time to explicitly include
• Within Faculties/Departments, PSR cycle to match
other appropriate cycles.
1. Link PSR with University/Faculty/Department
• Develop a university-wide strategy for the
inclusion of Associate Lecturers and
• Develop strategies to include Technical
staff and Graduate Teaching Assistants,
trial and evaluate.
2. Enable equity and access to the
• Develop a web-based repository of materials, guidance
• Review guidance information, for clarity e.g.
• Identify and/or develop relevant materials and
resources, based on best practice e.g. reflecting on your
practice; supporting PSR colleagues; evaluating impact
• Identify and trial appropriate recording tools for staff,
including electronic portfolios.
3. Further develop materials and
• Continue to work with the cross-university PSR
Advisory Group as a means for development and
dissemination of ideas and practice
• Facilitate interest groups - e.g. Subject Groups with
Professional Body requirements; Line Managers
• Identify and promote effective mechanisms for cross
• Consultation around the inclusion of staff with a
primary focus on research.
4. Further cross-university
facilitation and consultation
• Ensure appropriateness of documentation for
the range of staff using it; fitness for all
purposes, needs and contexts
• Identify strategies to increase effectiveness
e.g. electronic forms; combining 'forms' e.g.
Appraisal, PSR and Research forms.
5. Review PSR forms/documentation
• Further investigate the management of PSR
• Develop guidance/suggestions for those
managing PSR, to include the findings of this
evaluation e.g. responsibility allocated at appropriate
6. Identify, disseminate and support effective
approaches to manage PSR
• Design mechanisms to evaluate the outcomes
of the PSR process at different levels and its
impact on both staff and students'
7. Develop evaluation and impact