Peer Review of Teaching

Peer Review of Teaching is a tool for academic staff to evaluate and enhance their teaching practice. Peer review can provide academic staff:

  • feedback on the quality of teaching for developmental purposes;
  • evidence for use in promotion, probation or teaching award applications; and
  • affirmation and development of good teaching practice.

In addition to academic staff at UniSA engaging with peer review informally, they also engage formally with peer review throughout their academic career at UniSA. As part of their induction, all academic staff at UniSA attend the Teaching@UniSA course that offers peer observation of teaching as an optional activity.

UniSA has had a 'guide to peer review' since 1999, produced originally by the Learning and Teaching Unit, and now there are two research projects on peer review at UniSA being undertaken by the divisions of EASS and BUE with input from the Teaching Innovation Unit.

An online resource supporting the ALTC peer review project of online teaching and learning at UniSA is also available.

To discuss peer review, contact your Head of School, your Dean Teaching and Learning, or an Academic Developer in your division or on your campus.

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What is Peer Review?

A typical peer review requires a teacher to negotiate with a peer about the amount and conditions under which teaching performance will be observed, the areas in which judgements are sought, the standards that will be used in making judgements and the ways in which the evaluation will be reported.

Peer reviews can be conducted on any aspect of teaching including informal and formal evaluation of a course or program, design of a course, lecturing, laboratory teaching, large and small group teaching, online learning, online materials, and assessment.

Whilst peer review encompasses evaluation both of classroom performance and non-classroom curriculum activity, peer observation describes the more confined activity of visiting and learning about classroom teaching performance. The University of Wollongong (link opens in new window) provides a good overview of the process of peer observation of teaching.


Types of Peer Review

There are two inter-related types of peer review: formative and summative. Formative reviews are focused on gaining information for the purposes of the ongoing improvement of teaching. Formative review may be confined to a specific focus such as the use of questioning in a classroom setting or the use of a discussion forum in online teaching. Summative reviews have a particular endpoint in mind. They are mainly focused on the demonstration of quality in support of processes such as promotion or program evaluation.

Summative reviews can also have a formative dimension by informing ongoing practices.


Principles for Peer Review

Peer review should:

  • Be voluntary;
  • Be beneficial;
  • Have criteria that are context-specific, relevant and able to be evaluated;
  • Be conducted in a professional and ethical manner;
  • Have agreement on purpose, focus and criteria applied;
  • Be documented; and
  • Be confidential, with some exceptions.

Peer Review for promotion

Peer review is voluntary for the 2015 round of academic promotion. If you are engaged in teaching and are considering applying for promotion you can submit a formal peer review of teaching report as evidence of your teaching quality.

Formal summative peer review is concerned with the evaluation of your teaching for promotion, probation or professional development processes. It is one aspect of a suite of teaching quality data available to you. Formal summative peer review data can be supplemented by course evaluations, student evaluations, assessment profiles or learning analytics, etc.

The formal peer review process

The peer review process involves two reviewers who observe and make judgements of your teaching practice against mutually-agreed criteria. Teaching practice includes amongst other things, lectures, tutorials, online learning environments, or curriculum materials including assessment items or course assessment profiles.

The process comprises three discrete stages - planning, observation and feedback. Each observation session will require two independent reviewers. Each of the review stages, (planning, observation and feedback) is jointly undertaken (reviewee and two reviewers) - although this may be dependent on staff availability.

Approach for 2015

Requests for peer reviews of teaching will be conducted by:

  • LTU Academic Developers or Language and Learning Advisers who act as peer reviewers external to the discipline/division.
  • Discipline reviewers from Flinders University (which has a pool of trained reviewers) will be invited to conduct peer review of teaching at UniSA.

Peer review tools

Many universities have developed tools for the peer review of teaching. The tools provided on Resources for the Peer Evaluation of Teaching on the Flinders University website (link opens in new window) are particularly useful because they cover a wide range of teaching practices.


If you are interested in having a formal summative peer review conducted of your teaching performance or teaching materials, please contact:

Also see: information on Academic Promotion from the Human Resources Unit.

Additional resources

Literature and research

  • Bell, A., & ladenovic, R. (2008). "The benefits of peer observation of teaching for tutor development." Higher Education, 55, 735-752.
  • Brinko, K. T. (1993). "The practice of giving feedback to improve teaching." Journal of Higher Education, 64, 574-593.
  • Gosling, D. (2002). "Models of peer observation of teaching". City: LTSN Generic Centre: London.
  • Hammersley-Fletcher, L., & Orsmond, P. (2004). "Evaluating our peers: is peer observation a meaningful process?" Studies in Higher Education, 29(4), 20-33.
  • Kohut, G. F., Burnap, C., & Yan, M. G. (2007). "Peer observation of teaching: perceptions of the observer and the observed." College Teaching, 55(1), 19-25.
  • Peel, D. (2005). "Peer observation as a transformatory tool?" Teaching in Higher Education, 10(4), 489-504.
  • Shortland, S. (2004). "Peer observation: a tool for staff development or compliance?" Journal of Further and Higher Education, 28(2), 219-228.
  • Siddiqui, Z. S., Jonas-Dwyer, D., & Carr, S. E. (2007). "Twelve tips for peer observation of teaching." Medical Teacher, 29, 297-300.
  • Swinglehurst, D., Russell, J., & Greenhalgh, T. (2008). "Peer observation of teaching in the online environment: an action research approach." Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24, 383-393.