A Peer Reflection on Education Practice (PREP) activity runs every year at BU. The real strength of PREP and the contribution that is makes to BU is that it encourages and motivates staff at an individual level to reflect on and change/amend/improve their own education practice.
The PREP activity for the academic year 17-18, called iVLE.
Based on the research on the effectiveness of small quality circles and peer review, the purpose of iVLE is to bring together staff from the same department into groups of three to:
- Share their use of their VLE (myBU or Brightspace) and how this contributes to the student experience. The areas of education practice that comprise iVLE include but are not limited to:
- Content of units, ie learning materials
- Formative assessment
- Formative feedback
- Interaction opportunities
- Collaboration opportunities
- Bringing the VLE into the classroom
- Bringing the classroom into the VLE, eg the virtual classroom
- Supporting students pre and post placement
- Field trips and external work
- Special interest communities
2. Identify and implement improvements to their unit(s), and
3. Maintain the dialogue and offer continuing support to colleagues by meeting regularly, 2 – 3 times during the year
The goals are to:
- Encourage and support staff to develop a reflective practitioner paradigm
- Develop skill and confidence in using either of the current VLEs
- Promote a sense of collegiality within BU academic staff
- Improve students’ experience as a result of interaction with the VLE
The scope encompasses all BU’s academic staff.
The benefits of peer review are well established in education literature. One of the most compelling arguments for moving away from traditional teaching observation is by Susanne Weller (2009) who argues that “for teaching observation to contribute to legitimate enhancement of teaching practice, such processes must be underpinned by pluralistic models of professional development that tolerate, and indeed require, critical differences of perspective that challenge rather than affirm the existing professional ‘self-concept’ of experienced practitioners”. This is precisely the model proposed in iVLE. Bell and Mladenovic (2008) support Weller’s views arguing “Peer observation partnerships can help teachers improve their teaching practice, transform their educational perspectives and develop collegiality”. Their research found that “94% of participants found the exercise valuable and 88% said that they would change their teaching as a result of the exercise”.
The 2016 UCISA of TEL in HE gave as its first and second recommendations (p1) “Enhancing the quality of learning and teaching continues to be the primary driver for considering using TEL. Meeting student expectations retains its position in second place and the new response option Improving student satisfaction (e.g. NSS scores) is returned as the third most common driver for institutional TEL provision.” BU’s investment in myBU and Brightspace provides excellent platform on which to build quality learning materials for learners and provide the resources to meet and exceed student expectations.
The 2017 New Media Horizons Report (Adams et al 2017 p2) gives as its first recommendation the advancement of progressive learning approaches and “how institutions must be structured in ways that promote the exchange of fresh ideas, identify successful models within and outside of the campus”. The exchange of fresh ideas is at the heart of iVLE.
Overall, the literature provides strong support for iVLE. An impact of the scale of Bell and Mladenovic would be a tremendous achievement for BU.
We will come back to iVLE during the year and update on what has been achieved.