Peer Review aims to enhance the student learning experience and enable lecturers to teach and facilitate learning even more effectively. 

To give you further insight into how peer review could develop your learning and teaching practice a number of scenarios have been made available.

E-Tutoring

Context

Professor Decon has been invited to be a 'Cyber Prof' in support of the online part of a specialist third year course at another university. Although quite excited and intrigued about this proposal, he is new to e-tutoring and would like to know more about it and to see what this teaching role would involve. He remains to be convinced fully that e-tutoring can support student learning effectively and is also cautious about the impact on the tutor-student relationship.

Process

Professor Decon acted as an induction mentor for a junior colleague, Dr Reinhardt, three years ago. This was a role he very much enjoyed and felt he had personally benefited from. From this previous contact he knows that Dr Reinhardt has experimented quite a lot with the use of the University's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and various forms of online learning support and tutoring.

Professor Decon therefore decided to email Dr Reinhardt to see if he would be willing to partner him in a peer review process focussing on e-learning and the development of the expert tutor role online. Dr Reinhardt was very enthusiastic about this and the wheels were set in motion.

Dialogue

The pair decided to meet in Dr Reinhardt's office and sat either side of his computer to review some of the examples of VLE activities that he had developed over the last couple of years. Professor Decon was particularly interested in seeing the student discussion forum that had been part of a second year course this year. Asking questions to understand the communication and learning processes the students had experienced, Professor Decon began to see the potential of maybe extending the Cyber Prof role to his own students.

However, Dr Reinhardt was quick to point out that it wasn't all plain sailing and that there was significant variation in the students' willingness to engage with online discussion fora and that he was still not convinced that he had found the optimum way of engaging all his students. Both colleagues were able to explore further possibilities which included the strategic use of assessment, linking with Personal Development Planning, and integrative and progressive approaches working across the three years of the degree programme.

Evidence and Future

Although not as originally planned, the peer review clearly became reciprocal in nature. Dr Reinhardt used Professor Decon as a sounding board for the future development of his second year course and explored a number of options for the further integration of VLE discussion boards to support student learning after lectures.

Professor Decon gained a much clearer insight into the possible roles of an e-tutor and the problems of engaging all the students in such learning environments. On the basis of this peer review, Professor Decon accepted the invitation to become a 'Cyber Prof' and arranged to meet with Dr Reinhardt later in the year to review his experiences of online tutoring.

Minimal documentation was kept by both colleagues - the benefits were clearly in the conversation and the ability to 'see into' a colleagues teaching experiences. Professor Decon simply emailed the Departmental Peer Review co-ordinator to let her know that the peer review with Dr Reinhardt had taken place.

Lecturing

Context

Dr Summa has taught at the University for seven years and lectured on a large first year course for the last four of these. He wants to develop his lecturing and to encourage greater levels of student engagement and participation. He has heard a colleague (Dr Owen) refer to the use of 'Buzz groups' and 'Interactive handouts' at a recent staff meeting and would like to experiment with similar approaches in his own lectures.

He has spent quite a bit of time planning the lectures and thinking about the kind of questions it will be useful to ask the students in the class. He wants the students to be able to really think about and engage with the material he is presenting not just to take notes and memorise it for the exam.

Process

Dr Owen, has used a range of approaches in her lectures and has received excellent student feedback. She is delighted that Dr Summa is showing an interest in lecturing and is keen to support him. She too would value a colleague’s views on the methods she uses and is still trying to find better ways of allowing her third year students to practise some of the complex analysis she lectures on.

The two colleagues decide that their mutual interest in the possibilities offered by interactive lecturing techniques could form the basis of a peer review process. They decide to focus on Dr Summa's forthcoming lecture as a starting point for their review and Dr Owen will attend the lecture and observe.

Dr Summa finds Dr Owen's presence supportive and helpful whilst Dr Owen enjoys the experience of seeing her colleague teach and try out a Buzz group discussion in a discipline very similar to her own.

Dialogue

The lecture was a great success, with both lecturers and students feeling that they had learnt much. The colleagues met immediately afterwards to de-brief and reflect on the experience. The chance to talk over such a positive experience and share ideas about how the use of interactive techniques could be really developed was very motivating for both of them.

The meeting didn't take the usual form of an observer giving feedback to a lecturer on their performance. Instead it was very future-orientated conversation with both lecturers thinking about what had been the benefits for the students and how these gains could be maximised with slight tweaks to the way questions were poised and trying to capture the nature of the questions which proved to be most successful in stimulating and engaging them.

Documents and Future

Both lecturers could see many ways in which they could expand and diversify the use of interactive lecturing techniques to further enhance the learning experience and interest of their students. Dr Owen began planning out a problem solving exercise for her third years in which she could talk them through a complex process and give the students the chance to have a go and practise and check they were really following the explanation at several stages along the way. It was an explanation that she knew her students always found difficult and she felt the new approach could be very helpful.

This was also a theme emerging for Dr Summa, who had always felt frustrated at the lack of feedback in lectures. He could see a number of ways in which he could use questioning and the 'Buzz group' technique to allow him to check the level of understanding in the student group. He had also really enjoyed giving the lecture and saw it as a way he could maintain his own levels of interest and enthusiasm.

Neither colleague felt the need to make many formal notes about their peer review. They formally reported that it had happened and may share their experiences at the annual departmental teaching away day next year.

Marking Group Work

Context

Amir is a post-doctoral research fellow who is keen to do more teaching-related work as part of his development and for his CV as he wishes to pursue an academic career. He has just joined a small course team who run a final year module which is closely related to his own research area. The students are required to present their own research findings in a short written summary report and through an oral presentation. Amir has been asked to co-assess both components but hasn't done anything like this before.

The module convenor (Joanne Miller) is also the Principle Investigator overseeing Amir's research and she has a good relationship with him. She has been convening the final year course for the last four years and picking up on both feedback from previous students and the external examiner for the programme.

She is keen to provide the students with more formative assessment on the module to give them feedback on their progress. She also feels that peer assessment could be very beneficially here, as the skills of reflection and evaluation are also necessary for successful completion of the module. She would like to introduce an element of self and peer assessment in the student oral presentation component of the module and would value Amir's input and support.

Process

Joanne and Amir decide to use the assessment design and marking as a peer review focus. Amir wanting to gain some guidance and confidence in his ability to make appropriate judgements about the quality of the students' work, whilst Joanne wants to use the process as a vehicle to reflect on the design, implementation and impact of a new peer assessment process for the students.

Dialogue

The two colleagues meet three times during the running of the module assessment.

Firstly, to co-design a peer assessment feedback sheet for the students to use during the presentations. This involved a detailed conversation about what the students were able to judge and how best they could feed these views to colleagues in a constructive and helpful way. Joanne brought a first draft to the meeting and together they fine tuned and developed it.

By entering into the process from a very 'practical' and task driven perspective both were then more able to identify and describe how they felt the peer dialogue process could help them both. So by the end of this first meeting they were able to write down two or three bullet points to capture what they wanted to achieve through the peer review scheme and they had agreed how and when they would next meet.

The second meeting focussed on Amir's assessment of the students’ written summary report. He and Joanne had both marked the reports blind and now sat down together to go through the work. Joanne asked Amir to talk her through his grading decisions and she would ask questions and respond to his queries.

By comparing his marks with her own she could see that for the vast majority of reports they were less than 5% different and in close agreement. However, for two of the weaker reports the marks were significantly different with Amir being the 'harsher' marker. These two reports provided the stimulus for a very interesting discussion about using the full mark range and the marking culture in the Department.

As the more experienced marker Joanna felt it appropriate to take the lead in the second meeting but as they finished she explicitly asked if Amir would take the lead in organising the third meeting. She was aware that as his PI she could easily fall into the role of leading and was keen to avoid this in the peer review process. They planned to meet finally to review the implementation of the students' peer assessment during their oral presentations. Amir sat in on the presentations and observed how the students used the peer assessment proforma and he took observation notes in the feedback sessions that followed the presentations.

For the third meeting, Amir emailed a suggested agenda to Joanne a couple of days before they were due to meet. He also asked Joanne to let him know which issues she saw as priorities from the student learning perspective. They had set aside an hour and a half for the review and met in the Departmental small seminar room which had a big table in the middle where they could spread out their notes.

They began with Amir feeding back on his observations and impressions of how the students had engaged with the process. They then looked at the module evaluation questionnaires from the students in which three questions were specifically asking them about the presentations and the peer assessment process. Although the overall response was very encouraging Amir had detected a degree of hesitancy and discomfort when the students were asked to give feedback to each other and so this became the stimulus for an extended conversation about how the students could feel more assured in the feedback they gave. Amir felt that the students should be asked to give evidence for, or examples to illustrate the points they wished to make in the feedback. He also suggested that the students could discuss their ideas with a neighbour before they were asked to feedback, to give them chance to practice putting their thoughts into words and get the validation of a peer before being asked to speak out in the whole group. Picking up on this idea Joanne could see a way of structuring the feedback session more tightly to ensure that everybody participated - a concern she had, and to encourage the students to relate their responses to other students' presentations back to their own presentation and learning.

Evidence and the Future

During the three face to face meetings Amir kept brief hand written notes which he photocopied for Joanne. These served as a useful reminder and made it clear that the second meeting had worked to Amir's explicit goals and the third meeting to Joanne's interests.

However, in concluding the third meeting, they both felt that there were several unanticipated benefits in focussing the peer review on two different aspects of the same module. It gave consistency of thinking and allowed ideas to be cross referenced across the module. Amir was greatly buoyed by the experience, feeling great satisfaction in being able to give some support to Joanne. Joanne had enjoyed the peer review process and felt that it had facilitated a number of useful developments on her module and had allowed her to directly address student feedback.

Small Group Teaching

Context

Four teachers Joe, Sam, Mario and Anay are team-teaching a large first year course based on lectures and parallel seminars. The students criticised the seminars last year, in both the course evaluations and at the SSLC, for being uninspiring and of variable quality. The teachers too had been unhappy with the level of student preparation and participation in the classes. The four teachers decide to use the peer review process as a way of collaboratively reviewing the way seminars are led and the students' learning experience in them.

Process

The four teachers work out a rota of observations in which they each observe a colleague and are observed by another. They agree a common format for the observations and have two levels of de-brief after them. They decide to have a one-to-one confidential conversation between observer and teacher to focus on any individual issues, questions and concerns. They also decide to have a group review meeting to concentrate on shared issues which relate to the seminars as a whole and the students' collective experience and learning on the course.

Dialogue

The pair conversations highlight a number of common concerns but also identify some interesting examples of innovative practice. For example Anay has been trying out a method, using brief reading summaries posted to a Moodle site ahead of the seminar, to encourage more of the students to do their preparatory reading which the other teachers didn't know about before the observations.

These collective concerns and ideas for future development were collated into a group meeting agenda and the four set aside 2 hours to review the whole experience and ways forward together.

In this case the four colleagues felt relaxed and comfortable with each other and were able to freely refer back to individual observation experiences. They found the conversations much richer than written notes and so kept the note taking to a minimum. There was an open and wide ranging discussion about problems, good practice and ideas for future development. In fact, a set of curriculum changes were proposed to implement a wider range of teaching and learning activities, including the use of relevant case studies and problem scenarios and the greater use of the VLE in supporting discussion outside the class. The peer review process was focussed on the students’ experience of seminars rather than any one teacher's particular teaching style or skills.

Documents and Future

The observation and meeting notes from these one-to-one meetings are kept confidential to the pair involved. However, each pair did produce a list of 'issues' that they are happy to put forward to the collective group meeting and agree any points which they wish to keep private to themselves.

The team meeting was more formally minuted by Joe who intended including the meeting in the module review documentation (and in his portfolio for the Initial Teaching Development programme). They agreed a future action plan to formally adopt Anay's idea tackling the problem of student preparation and felt that they had arrived at a much clearer idea of what each tutor had been doing in the seminars and could see ways of making the experiences richer and more 'even' for the students. They planned to capture these views in a brief guidance document to advise any teachers joining the course team in the future about the running of seminars.

Student Placement Activities

Context

Tony is a second year undergraduate who is about to do a six week placement in practice. He will have a external clinical supervisor (Mrs Stewart) as well as an academic supervisor (Dr Souk). Dr Souk would like to use the Peer Review process to enhance the integration of the student placement in the curriculum and to increase her understanding of the student's experience in this part of the course.

She has approached Mrs Stewart with this suggestion and found her to be equally keen to partner her in Peer Review seeing it as a chance to better understand the University-based course experience of her students. Mrs Stewart wants to understand the preparation students have prior to the placement and Dr Souk wants to see where such preparations could be improved for the student.

Process

As the two colleagues work in two different institutions some miles apart, they decided to have an initial booked telephone conversation to explore the best ways to undertake the review process and to check dates and availabilities for a face to face meeting. They decided to follow up the telephone conversation with an exchange of emails clarifying the main topics they would like to discuss, the things they would like to see, and their personal objectives from the meeting.

Dr Souk normally visits each of her placement students once when they are on placement and so it is agreed to combine the peer review meeting with her visit to see Tony. However, both colleagues agree that these two processes should be kept as separate as possible and that the conversations with the student is only a small part of the peer review process on this occasion.

Dialogue

The face to face meeting took place in week four of Tony's placement and he had made good progress and settled well overall. Mrs Stewart had kept some brief notes on the kind of issues that had arisen during the placement particularly in the first couple of weeks. Dr Souk had looked back at the information and briefings that the students received before they began the placement so that she could explain the student preparation to Mrs Stewart.

At the meeting Dr Souk began by explaining the current situation and how the placement was presented to the students. Mrs Stewart then talked through her experiences of supervising Tony and previous students on the placement. She highlighted two areas where they seemed particularly to be 'thrown in the deep end' and find it more challenging than she thought that they should. She had observed that all the students she had supervised were poor at managing their time and being self-directed in the workplace. They were also weak at efficiently and succinctly reporting, both verbally and in writing.

Dr Souk then remembered two exercises that the students do at the end of their first year which were intended to help them develop just these skills and yet these activities were not specifically linked to the year two placement. She could see several ways that, both the learning tasks themselves and the ways in which they were presented to the students, could better align with the placement experiences.

Mrs Stewart could also see the challenges of making the study skills learning tasks 'real' and relevant to the first year students and wondered if they could ask some of the second years, who had just undertaken their placements, to come and talk to the first years in those study skills sessions or she herself could come to the University and co-facilitate one of the sessions? Her head was full of possibilities.

Evidence and the Future

The meeting ended with both colleagues needing to go back to their own institutions to see how they could move forward with the improvements they had identified together.

They agreed to talk to each other on the telephone in a week’s time to update each other and plan next steps.

For the peer review process they wrote a final summary of their intended actions to attach to the notes that they had prepared for the face to face meeting and also included in the file copies of the emails they had exchanged when clarifying personal agendas and goals.

Supervision of Research Students

Context

Dr Peters began supervising his first PhD student 3 months ago and is keen to develop his supervisory skills and ensure his student makes good progress and completes her work on time. Dr Peters is co-supervising with an experienced supervisor, Professor Williams, who has supervised 7 students through to completion but has also experienced some difficult supervisory situations, with 2 students failing to submit.

Process

As co-supervision is taking place in this department anyway, it seems very sensible and timely to organise a peer review around this activity. Dr Peters gives some thought to his personal goals - what aspects of supervision he would most value the opportunity to discuss with his senior colleague? He decides he would like Professor William's views on how he is running his face to face supervision meetings and, in particular, how he is giving feedback. With this in mind he arranges a brief meeting with Professor Williams to brief him on these goals and to organise the practical arrangements for the peer review.

They decide that Professor Williams will sit in on the next supervisory meeting and they will schedule an hour for a discussion afterwards. Because the student is used to sometimes meeting with both supervisors, it is decided that it is not necessary on this occasion, to discuss the peer review with the student.

Dialogue

After the supervision meeting, during which Professor Williams made some brief notes of the points he wished to raise in the Peer Review, the two colleagues met in Dr William's office over a cup of coffee. They had in front of them the supervision meeting agenda and the hand written record of the meeting, which had been agreed by supervisor and student. Professor Williams asked Dr Peters to talk through what had happened in the meeting and how he felt it had gone. Professor Williams mainly asked questions and raised two or three of the issues he had noted down, e.g. how to ensure that clear goals were agreed and timescales set for the next stage of the work.

The conversation naturally broadened to include a discussion about how the supervision should develop and change over time and Dr Peters asked about Professor Williams’s experiences in supervising at a distance, when his students did fieldwork - as this is something that their student will be embarking on in a few months time. Both colleagues concluded by reviewing their joint approach to supervision and considering a number of ways in which their collaborative approach could enhance the experience of doing the research project for the student.

Evidence and the Future

To conclude the Peer Review, Dr Peters wrote a page of notes to summarise the main points that arose through the reflection and dialogue exercise. He also set himself an action plan of three things to do in his next supervision:

  1. exchange agendas before supervisory meetings
  2. set clear goals for considering progress
  3. seek feedback from research student on how she is experiencing supervision.

He stapled this to the supervision meeting agenda and minutes and the hand written notes that Prof Williams gave to him after their meeting and kept them in his personal teaching file.

Professor Williams went into the Dialogue thinking it would mainly be focussed on the interests and needs of his junior colleague but, given the opportunity to consider his own style and approach to supervision, he identified a couple of areas he would like to address in his own approach to supervision - in particular the way that the two supervisors work together, the way that they keep joint records of the supervision process and integrate this effectively with the student's personal development planning and log.

Supporting a Student with Dyslexia

Context

Su White had become the Department's unofficial expert in all things related to the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). She had been involved in the development of a range of support systems across the Department for students with a disability and had a particular personal interest in dyslexia and making reasonable adaptation in teaching and assessment processes. Her interest and enthusiasm made her an obvious person for Ian Wright to approach with his concerns.

Ian was academic tutor for a student who had produced some written work that was of a much lower standard that he was expecting. Having seen the student in seminars he was anticipating essays of high quality. The first piece of work he had marked he had assumed had been rushed and was the poor result of a too many late nights and a rapidly approaching deadline. He had marked it in this light and written the comment that he expected much better from the student.

However, his concerns had been raised when he had received a second piece of work that had also demonstrated the same muddled thinking and lack of coherent structure. Especially as the reference list showed that the student had consulted a wide set of readings and there were several moments of real insight in the writing.

Process

Ian wanted to explore two things with Su:

  • how could he raise the issue of possible dyslexia with his student in a tactful and helpful way?
  • how could he personally support his student as he undertook more complex writing tasks during the course?

He spoke with Su and she readily agreed to partner him through a Peer Review process focussing on these goals and issues.

Su very much liked Ian and wanted to help him but she had other motives too. She wanted to check that the Departmental systems and mechanisms worked effectively in supporting the student and were clear and accessible to staff colleagues.

Sue and Ian arranged to meet in his office for about an hour. The meeting was scheduled to take place a few days before Ian had planned a tutorial with his student. At the meeting Ian explained his concerns and showed Su the student's written work. She reaffirmed Ian's views and spotted several traits in the essays which strengthened the diagnosis of dyslexia. It appeared that the student did have difficulties with information processing and organisation rather than being careless and hurried. Together they felt that there was enough evidence to support a more detailed conversation with an educational psychologist and that the student should be referred to the Disability Office to pursue this further.

Dialogue

However, the bulk of the conversation between the colleagues focussed on two issues. Firstly, did the Department have in place the necessary support frameworks to help the student effectively and, secondly, how did an individual teacher provide appropriate help and feedback?

Ian was keen to be constructive and sensitive in his approach as personal tutor. He felt he had lots of reason to believe the student to be very capable and talented and was therefore very motivated to ensure that appropriate ways of enabling the student to demonstrate these skills were found.

Su was able to give some suggestions of methods of giving feedback and together they also ran through a mental checklist of adaptive approaches that they did and could use on the course - such as providing handout material and pre-reading assignments well in advance and on the VLE in variable print formats. However, for Ian the way he intended to approach his meeting with the student was firmed up and he gained great reassurance from talking this through with Su.

Evidence and the Future

Su identified the need for two sets of further guidance for the School as an outcome of the Review Process. She felt that academic tutors needed to be clearer about 'next steps' if they felt their students had writing difficulties or other dyslexia associated problems with study. She also realised that there were significant holes in the departmental study skills advice that she intended to raise at the next Teaching and Learning committee meeting.

Ian felt better able to approach a meeting with the student in which he could not only give clear feedback to the student but also be more knowledgeable about possible options and ways forward. This wasn't a one off, quick fix, but a process through which Ian had gained further awareness and understanding of a complex condition and its impact on a student's abilities to show his/her abilities in the discipline. The impact would be felt in a number of ways in the coming year - not only in the direct exchanges between Ian and his student but in Ian's development of course materials and the design of learning tasks for seminars.

Brief documentation was kept on the key outcomes of the meeting and the Peer Review coordinator for the Department was informed that the process had taken place.

Visiting another Institution

Context

Simon Fisher has been involved in a development project, funded by the Higher Education Subject Centre, to develop a set of student learning materials in the area of Citizenship. The Subject Centre has put him in touch with Trudy Bergman who works at a Welsh University and who is also receiving funding for a parallel project on Citizenship.

Trudy has designed a learning activity which she intends to pilot soon with her first year students and Simon feels that there would be great value in visiting Wales to see how she uses the materials in class and to discuss the design of the learning resources he has so far produced. He asks her if she would be interested in this approach and if she would be willing to let him visit and observe some of her teaching. Trudy is keen to collaborate (as colleagues in her own Department have shown only passing interest in her project so far) but she is a little anxious about being observed.

Process

Simon emailed Trudy the Peer Review Guidance notes and explained that the process would be focussed on what he learnt from seeing her teaching approach and what he could take away and reflect on in relation to his own teaching and students. He also realised that actually observing the class was actually only a small part of what he hoped to see/hear and that the conversations with Trudy, about what she was doing, was where he felt he had the most to gain. With this clarification they arranged for Simon to visit Trudy a couple of days after she had run the student session and piloted the new Citizenship materials.

Dialogue

Although Simon and Trudy had spoken several times on the telephone and via email they hadn't met before and so they spent about half an hour in social conversation and with Trudy showing Simon the teaching room she had used and describing the cohort of students she had taught. With this background and with a more relaxed rapport being established, the pair began to focus more tightly on the pilot experience and the lessons to be learnt and applied to the design of future learning resources.

Initially Trudy talked through the session she had run and noted the best and worst features of the class from her perspective. One concern she had was that the students had engaged well in the task but she felt they were not relating it to their own experiences of being Citizens and treating it purely as academic course work.

Simon immediately saw the challenge and talked through his ideas for the design of a 'before and after' online questionnaire that could be used to encourage students to consider the personal impact of the taught session. Trudy was very interested in these ideas and shared her thoughts about asking the students to consider themselves as citizens 'of the University' and to consider their own rights and responsibilities.

Evidence and the Future

Travelling back to Bath on the train Simon made some notes about his day and reflected on the way he could embed some of the learning points into his practice and improve the design of the learning materials he was working on.

Now that Simon and Trudy had met face to face and spent a really productive morning together, both were much more willing and relaxed about the idea of observing each other actually running classes and teaching. They had decided to plan a follow up get-together in 6 months time when Trudy could visit Bath and sit in on a class with Simon.

In the time in between they also decided to use each other as critical friends in the development of learning resources and would email drafts and comment on them. They also agreed to share outputs and work on complimentary activities jointly, a decision which they needed to inform the Subject Centre about because of the project funding they had received.

For the peer review process documentation, Simon wrote two sides of notes on the process that they had embarked on and key action points arising from the review. He emailed these to Trudy to check she was happy with his representation of their meeting and she added a small comment at the end explaining the impact on her.

Writing Exam Questions

Context

Drs Phillips and McGregory have jointly developed a new Masters module. They share the teaching load equally and now need to write the first ever exam paper for the new course and the first cohort of students. Both academics have written exam questions for several undergraduate modules in the past but haven't examined Masters students before.

They have decided that this exercise would form an excellent focus for a peer review process as they can check and reassure each other that their questions are fair, valid and appropriate, and can generate a combined view on the guidance that should be given to the students about the exam.

The lecturers are acutely aware that the students taking the course may consider themselves guinea pigs and feel disadvantaged in not being able to refer back to past papers when revising for the exam. They therefore wish to provide a clear description of the nature of the exam paper and maybe even provide some sample questions for the group to best support their learning and help them to feel more confident.

Process

The Lecturers decide to act as reciprocal peer reviewers and each write five draft exam questions, swap them to read, comment and identify any general issues before meeting to review all the questions and the paper as a whole.

In writing the questions both academics realise that they have some specific questions that they wish to discuss with each other:

  • Do the exam questions align clearly with the learning outcomes of the course?
  • Do the questions allow students to integrate and appraise the additional reading and research that some of them will have done?
  • Do the questions allow students to demonstrate their achievement of the higher Master's level cognitive skills such as critical analysis and synthesis?

The Lecturers draft their questions over a period of two weeks and then swap and read them over a third week before meeting for an hour and a half.

Dialogue

During the face to face meeting they decide to take each question in turn and alternate roles from one to the next (ie. look at one of Dr McGreggory's questions first, then one of Dr Phillips next and so on).

It soon becomes clear that the most challenging aspect of question writing is writing questions that give the opportunity to the better students to show their additional abilities and this becomes a theme for the meeting. In addition, both lecturers become more aware of the difficulty of making their questions unambiguous, particularly for the many non-native English speaking students who are taking the course. Having a second person scrutinising the language and the nature of any 'presumed' background knowledge was incredibly helpful and helped generate a final exam paper that did not unfairly discriminate against students who had not studied in the UK before.

The conversation was rigorous and detailed with both colleagues able to take the role of ‘critical friend’ easily. However, the time did run beyond the one and half hours they had originally expected and the review meeting in fact took two and a half hours. The additional time was mainly spent in drafting quite detailed marking guidance for each of the questions - for a couple this took the form of 'model answers' but for others was a looser indication of what a highly scoring answer would need to address.

Evidence and Future

Drs Greggory and Phillips produced an exam paper that they could use with confidence and felt able to prepare their students for. They had two sample questions that could be shown to the students and a set of marking guidance that was much more detailed that anything either of them had used before.

Dr Phillips planned to use the sample questions as a revision tool and exam practice. He planned to ask the students to draft answers and use a strategy of 'in-class' peer assessment to improve the provision of feedback for students prior to the examination.

They decided that it would be very useful to meet together again after the students had sat the exam paper and they had marked it. They wanted to review the relative merits of the individual questions and the different styles of questions that they had included, plus their use of the more detailed marking guidance.