Peer Evaluation of Teaching or 'Fear' Evaluation: In Search of Compatibility

Article excerpt

Abstract

Peer evaluation or review of teaching is one of the factors of quality assurance system at the present time. However, peer evaluation is sometimes approached with trepidation and with the feeling that it may not be fair and free of bias. This paper examines teachers' perceptions of peer evaluation as an enhancement for quality teaching. A questionnaire was designed and distributed among forty tutors in two higher learning institutes in the Sultanate of Oman. The study drew some results pertaining to the teachers' views of peer evaluation and its impact on teaching quality enhancement.

Keywords: peer evaluation/peer review, quality assurance system, quality teaching, subjectivity, professional development

1. Introduction

The history of teaching has revealed a pertinent fact that a new relevant practice or an innovation always has a major effect upon teaching, whether methodological or technological. The teaching profession in general and at the tertiary level, in particular, has witnessed a series of 'revolutions' in various aspects by promoting and implementing new practices, techniques and theories. The pre-twentieth-century language teaching practices, for instance, were different from the teaching trends practiced in the twentieth century (Celce-Murcia, 2001). It is worth noting that such changes and shifts happen at varying degrees and speed depending on the field, subject or discipline. Moreover, it has been natural to see each practice receiving different responses and producing different results. The teaching practices prevalent in the twentieth century have been associated with numerous concepts and practices such as effective teacher and effective teaching, exploring teacher beliefs, teacher education, teacher training, teacher perceptions; and all have been introduced to assist teachers perform better and effectively (Borich, 2004). The keen interest into tailoring and exploring the best practices and innovations that may lead to better outcomes is realised by Biggs and Tang (2007) who stated that "the new agenda for universities, to sell education and to provide for market needs, makes them like any other corporation that sells a product" (p. 3).

In recent years, both feedback on teaching for professional development and the teaching practice have witnessed a new phase of revolution by the implementation of the concept of quality assurance (QA) in education which has become an international trend and brand widely adopted by institutions of higher education; and the Sultanate of Oman is no exception. Richards and Schmidt (2002) defined quality assurance as the "system an organization has in place to ensure the quality of its practices" (p. 436). This notion has put significant impact on the teaching practice and is deemed to change its landscape and direction forever. The quality assurance system operates with the view that quality teaching and quality learning are the best response to the market and employment demands for skilful graduates equipped with academic and non-academic skills. In this context, Cowan (2006) viewed teaching as "the purposeful creation of situations from which motivated learners should not be able to escape without learning or developing" (p. 100). Thus, the equation rests on a well-connected cycle of good teaching leading to quality learning outcomes and full satisfaction of the work market. In addition, the effective teaching-learning process enables teachers to receive constructive perspectives on their teaching consistent with motivating students and professional development. As far as feedback for quality teaching is concerned, teacher peer review (PR) or evaluation is one of the fundamental steps in the quality assurance system and an important requirement for teacher growth and development. Biggs and Tang (2007) defined peer review as a process for the evaluation of teaching by a colleague; and identified the rationale behind peer review system as they argued that "the primary purpose of peer review is to provide formative feedback for continuing professional development of individual teachers" (p. …