Academics’ Perception of Peer Review of Teaching: A phenomenographic study
The study presented in this thesis explores how Peer Review of Teaching (PRoT) is perceived at one research-intensive metropolitan university in Australia and extrapolates key ideas for developing or improving PRoT programs. It provides answers to two research questions: • Research question 1: “How is Peer Review of Teaching perceived in higher education?” • Research question 2: “How can understanding the perceptions of Peer Review of Teaching improve PRoT programs?” I addressed the first research question by employing a phenomenographic research approach. Previous studies of perceptions of PRoT have been constrained by contextual and methodological limitations. As a result, identified perceptions of PRoT were linked to specific programs and that data collection methodologies confined research participants to ability to express their own perceptions. To overcome these contextual and methodological constraints, this study employed a phenomenographic research approach, which allowed participants the freedom to choose the aspects of the phenomenon PRoT on which they wanted to focus and removed the contextual and methodological constraints of previous studies. The aim of phenomenography is to identify and describe the limited number of qualitatively different ways a phenomenon is perceived. I have realised this aim by interviewing a purposive sample of twenty academics and relevant non-academic staff and conducting a phenomenographic analysis of the data resulting from their semi-structured interviews. The analysis revealed four qualitatively different conceptions of PRoT, which are described in five categories of description. By relating these categories logically to one another, I constructed a phenomenographic outcome space that illustrates the variation with which PRoT is perceived within my sample. 12 To answer the second research question, I identified and discussed three pertinent issues emerging from the data, namely participants’ conceptions of their ideal PRoT, their use of terminology related to models and frameworks of PRoT and their understanding of PRoT as an approach to improving teaching. Each of these issues contributes insights which are useful for developing and improving PRoT programs. Participant’s conceptions of their ideal PRoT highlights the importance academics place on agency and autonomy and their interest in normalising engagement in PRoT. Participants’ idiosyncratic use of terminology related to models and frameworks hints at the need for formal training and for clarifying terminology to ensure peers communicate unambiguously with one another. And finally, the framing of PRoT as a form of informal learning brought into focus the tensions around key issues, including peers’ expertise, the role of collegiality in PRoT and the lack of implementation of insights gained from engaging in PRoT. Building on these insights, I conclude this chapter by suggesting three key considerations which could inform the development or improvement of PRoT programs. My suggestions propose a move from problem-based forms of PRoT to solution-based alternatives, involving multiple peers from a variety of relevant backgrounds and ensuring insights gained from engaging in PRoT are implemented.