Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 38, No. 1, February 2012, 37–49
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article presents an example of the use of peer review in teacher education.
Peer review was used to help prepare pre-service teachers for dialogic work in schools
The participants were 60 pre-service secondary school teachers in their final semester of a two-semester postgraduate teacher education course.
They were specialising in becoming teachers of religious education.
They were enrolled at the Melbourne campus of the Australian Catholic University, Australia (ACU).
All preservice teachers completed the survey questionnaire.
Furthermore, 55 of the 60 pre-service teachers participated in focus group discussions.
Prior to the study, a pilot study revealed a number of negative perceptions of peer review from the cohort of pre-service teachers involved.
The dominance of the negative experiences of peer review encouraged the research team to put strategies in place to enable pre-service teachers to consider some of the more positive aspects of peer review.
This article focuses on two key findings which highlight the positive aspects of this peer-review experience.
1) Improved skills and pedagogical techniques for the classroom
The insights from participants involved in this study conveyed the potential for improvement in both academic work and classroom practice.
The pre-service teachers were able to reflect critically upon the quality and delivery of their presentation.
They were also able to consider ways to improve their attributes for classroom communication and communication with other pre-service teachers.
This study has shown that pre-service teachers perceived that the peer-review process is able to contribute to improving the skills and pedagogical techniques of the pre-service teacher.
In particular, they were able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their ability to learn and apply an educational theory to a content area in a prescribed curriculum, and demonstrate its practical application through a professional learning seminar.
Furthermore, the process gave pre-service teachers the opportunity to consider ways to improve certain skills such as introducing new knowledge to learners, and demonstrating a clear link between educational theory, curriculum content delivery and practice.
The pre-service teachers were able to receive feedback on alternative ways of presenting a topic in a learning environment.
Finally, this study has shown that peer review also has the potential to improve the professional practice of future teachers.
This improvement can be achieved as part of a straightforwardly ‘academic’ and university-based practice.
2) Pre-service teachers as researchers and peer review as integral to building learning communities
The dialogic nature of learning communities is central to the significance of peer review amongst pre-service teachers of religious education.
It is very common for those receiving feedback from a peer review to hear only the negative aspects, even when the positives outweigh them.
In contrast, the participants in this study tended to view feedback from the peer review in a positive light even in situations where they found the feedback to be strongly critical of their work.
It seems that those pre-service teachers who are committed to self-improvement and professional growth welcome constructive feedback.
It is vital that feedback is viewed constructively, as a vehicle for improvement.
This study shows that pre-service teachers of religious education are able to develop their own peer review-processes and participate, as well as receive feedback, in a constructive manner.
It has revealed that through dialogue with peers the preservice teachers perceived that their experience of peer review helped them to reflect critically on ways to evaluate and improve their own performance as pre-service teachers and practise as educators.
Therefore, it is beneficial that pre-service teachers experience and find value in the benefits of peer review as the isolation associated with many forms of classroom teaching.