Context

Peer support has been approved by LTSC for implementation across all Schools. Peer Support can be defined as a range of practice from peer observation of practice, peer observation of teaching through to mentoring and buddying.

Historically forms of mentoring and peer observation have been used to support the CPD of teaching staff and there are many staff who already use some form of peer support, peer review or peer observation. The practice of peer support is standard across the sector and support a number of strategic drivers which expect a focus on the continuing professional development of staff in providing a high quality student learning experience eg NSS, ISB, Strategic Outcomes Agreement, ELIR. 

Currently peer support is embedded in the support offered to staff wishing to gain professional recognition of teaching (UKPSF) - the PgC Academic Practice (PgCAP) for all new teachers at GCU, and the RPL route for experienced staff. Engaging in peer support can be useful where experienced staff are seeking evidence for Senior Fellow where evidence of developing others in learning and teaching and/or for promotion purposes.

The Process

The University has an expectation for all teaching staff to engage in peer support and has provided  staff guidance on the process and potential benefits to staff below.

  1. The expectation is that, once per trimester (min), each member of teaching staff will provide and receive peer support. A Peer Support form (Appendix 1) has been developed for staff to use where no other system is currently in place. This form provides guidance for those new to peer support and also offers a level of consistency in approach. The form can also be used by staff to keep a personal record of how they are developing their practice.
  2. Members of staff are encouraged to discuss engagement in peer support within the PDAR process.
  3. Members of staff are encouraged to share their involvement in peer support – Heads of Dept have been asked to monitor the effective engagement in peer support of staff in the Dept.
Benefits of Peer Support:
  • Evidence of engaging in peer support aligned with PDAR, supports new teaching staff seeking Fellowship of the HEA, and experienced staff wishing to develop evidence for Senior Fellow. Peer Support can also be offered for professional services staff – many have Associate Fellowship of the HEA and others should be encouraged to consider where appropriate.
  • Peer support encourages sharing of practice; university teaching is one of the very few professions where peers rarely see one another in action.  Research suggests that Peer Support is an effective and efficient form of collegiate CPD.  For example it can help identify and share good practice across and between Schools and can identify common problems that can be addressed collectively.
  • Peer support is encouraged for our students in some programmes and participating in a similar process will contribute to a greater understanding of the student experience.
  • Peer Support can identify common CPD requirements and inform School Action Plans and Operational plans to support SfL, NSS etc.
  • Peer support need not be face to face but can be peer review of online learning environments that have been created, or online facilitation skills or teaching materials.  
Setting up Peer Support

Identify a Peer: 

The first step in the Peer Practice Review process engages each individual initially identifying and getting the agreement from a colleague to act as a peer in the process.  Peers are normally selected from more experienced staff who can offer useful support and feedback to guide future practice in teaching and wider situations related to supporting student learning. Alternatively, peer support can be sought from someone who has a particular approach learning and teaching, or assessment that the individual would like to develop themselves.

Select a learning/teaching activity or practice to enhance: 

The second step is to identify a specific teaching or supporting student learning situation or experience which you would like peer feedback on. Taking a specific situation ensures that real, concrete enhancement can be identified.  The key objective is to focus on how your practice can be enhanced and not on how the situation could be changed. 

For example, consider where an individual is reviewing an experience relating to delivering in a large lecture class when the computer and Powerpoint presentation crashed. Here the focus should not be on how to improve technical support (ie changing the situation), rather, the focus should be on how you will respond in future situations when a computer crashes (ie changing your practice). 

Obtaining peer feedback: 

In Peer Support you can discuss with your peer in advance of delivering an activity/session what you want to happen in terms of student engagement ie what are your intentions for this activity/session. You can discuss what you expect or anticipate will happen if you follow a specific planned course of action.  A peer can support you to consider alternative ways that the session/activity could be designed or delivered to achieve the student outcomes.  You can reflect on this to adjust how you will plan to design or deliver a similar activity/session in the future. 

You can use the Peer Support Form to capture your reflections and the outcome of the Peer Support process. This can usefully inform the PDAR process or alternatively contribute to a professional recognition claim for HEA fellowship.   

Interacting with a peer, or a group of colleagues acting to provide peer support collectively, an individual will work their way through the template questions to structure the Peer Support process to reflect on previous practice and come to a meaningful action or a set of actions based on a consideration of their intentions of what learning should take place, how they anticipate students will respond and any adjustments that should be considered as a result of the peer support reflective process.