Residential Curriculum Element #9: Peer-Review is Accomplished Through an Intentional Process

Because curricula are educational plans, they should be subject to the same peer-review processes as their course-credit-bearing equivalents. The idea of peer-review is borrowed from scholarly circles, whereby communities of scholars engage in self governance and ensure quality and standards are adhered to. The same holds true of a residential curriculum review process. With a residential curriculum, educational experts evaluate learning plans  to ensure they are meeting their stated objectives and suggest areas for refinement and improvement.

In the case of a residential curriculum, the peer review process should involve a broad set of educational partners. These could include education faculty, who have expertise in curricular development, content experts, such as individual student affairs departmental heads, and members of other institutions, who can provide broader perspectives and ideas. However a peer review committee is structured, it should be intentional in its composition.

Suggested Peer Review Partners

  • Faculty with expertise in student learning and curriculum
  • Engaged living learning program faculty and staff partners
  • Faculty or staff from the Liberal  or General Education office
  • Staff members from key offices that represent your main learning goals (ex. Health Promotion, Multicultural Affairs offices, Orientation and First Year Programs, etc.)

Collaborating Colleagues

Peer review of a residential curriculum need not be viewed as a monolithic, once-a-year process. In developing a curriculum, pay attention to what feedback loops are created. When assessment data is gathered, who reviews this and suggests changes? When outcomes need to be revised, when should this occur? Infusing a peer review process into a cycle of continuous improvement can ensure that a curriculum is constantly moving forward and advancing.

Many institutions that embark on a curriculum find the development of a peer review process to be the most difficult element to achieve. Some are unsure of how to structure such a review, and others may feel their curriculum is never “ready enough” to be reviewed. When embarking on peer review, it is important to remember that curricula are always evolving and subject to revision. There is no “good enough” or “developed enough” to be put to a review. Part of this process requires that you to learn by doing. Begin with low level outcomes and let your peer review process develop over time, alongside your curriculum. Doing this from the start, instead of waiting until later, will ensure that the idea of continuous improvement is baked into your educational planning.

Key Questions:

  • Who should be involved in any peer review processes?
  • How can you infuse peer review throughout the year?
  • How can you start working towards a peer review process from the beginning of your curriculum implementation?

Reference: Kerr, K. G., Tweedy, J., Edwards, K. E., & Kimmel, D. (2017, March-April). Shifting to curricular approaches to learning beyond the classroom. About Campus, 22(1), 22-31. doi:10.1002/abc.21279

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