The PRTP has faculty explore and apply peer review for documenting, promoting, and valuing the intellectual work of teaching. Faculty are encouraged to explore not only what students learn, but also to assess how they learn.

In this section:

Benchmark Course Portfolio A type of course portfolio for describing the student learning that occurs in a course
Inquiry Course Portfolio A type of course portfolio for exploring a research question in one’s teaching of a course
Creating a Course Portfolio General overview of how to link interactions together to create a portfolio
UNL Fellowship Program  A summary of our program for supporting peer review on the UNL campus

Benchmark Course Portfolio

One type of portfolio is the benchmark portfolio. A benchmark portfolio represents a snapshot of students’ learning within a particular course and enables faculty to generate questions that they would like to investigate about their teaching. The prompts that follow represent the types of questions that faculty participants consider as they develop their benchmark portfolios.

Interaction 1: Reflections on the Syllabus

The first interaction asks faculty to discuss the course syllabus and reflect on the course goals and the intellectual rationale for these goals. Typical questions include: What is your course about? What is the content area covered? Who are your students (e.g., first, fourth year, graduate majors or non-majors)? What do you want students to know? What do you want them to be able to do?

Interaction 2: Capturing the Particulars of Instructional Practice

In the second interaction faculty reflect on their teaching methods, course assignments, and course materials. Some questions include “What teaching methods are you using during your contact time with students and how do these methods facilitate students’ achievement of course objectives? How do you measure student learning via these methods?” and “In what ways do you expect your choices for methods, materials, and assignments to assist your students in meeting the goals of your course?”

Interaction 3: Documenting and Analyzing Student Learning

In the third interaction, faculty reflect on student learning by analyzing samples of student work. Typical questions include: “Is there evidence of students meeting the specific learning goals you selected and where do you see such understanding?,” “What criteria do you use to assess student understanding?” and “Does performance represented by student work indicate students have developed an understanding for your field of study that will be retained or that students can apply to new contexts?”

Inquiry Course Portfolio

A second type of portfolio is an inquiry portfolio. This portfolio focuses around a specific question or issue regarding teaching practices, course structures, and student learning over time. For our Peer Review program, faculty initially write a benchmark portfolio to identify issues or questions within their teaching. They then develop an inquiry portfolio focusing specifically on that issue or question. An inquiry portfolio provides faculty with opportunities to document improvement in their teaching over time and to assess the long-term impact of teaching changes, the success of teaching approaches, and the accomplishment of student learning. The prompts that follow are designed to help faculty begin this scholarly investigation into their own teaching.

Interaction 1: Stating an Issue or Problem to Investigate

Faculty begin conceptualizing their inquiry portfolios by identifying issues to investigate, especially discussing why this issue is significant for their students’ learning. They then reflect on the course’s history and development, provide a rationale for selecting a specific problem for investigation, and examine the issue’s history and significance within their teaching.

Interaction 2: Developing a Methodology for Investigation

Faculty next develop and describe their methodology for investigating the problem or issue they plan to change or study in the teaching of the course (specific methods, course materials or assignments, assessment of student work, etc.). This interaction includes defining the problem, identifying types of classroom evidence (data) needed to study the issue more fully, conceptualizing sampling issues in the data collection process, and reflecting on the underlying assumptions of the methods that they have selected.

Interaction 3: Analyzing and Assessing Findings

The final interaction asks faculty to analyze and interpret their collected data in order to answer the following questions: What do the data tell me about the problem/issue I originally chose to investigate? Do the data indicate my initial hypothesis is supported; or suggest that my initial hypothesis might be incorrect? Is there a new hypothesis emerging with respect to the issue I hoped to address? Are there new issues or questions emerging from the data that I hadn’t considered or that help me to reframe the issue(s)?

Creating a Course Portfolio

Once faculty write the three interactions, they link them together to develop a course portfolio. This portfolio is not a course archive but rather a brief reflective document that summarizes the course and its impact on student learning. A portfolio typically includes:

  • A statement of the content and goals of your course
  • A plan to accomplish key objectives in student learning
  • Evidence and assessment of student achievement toward these goals
  • A reflective narrative on the relation among the above three elements

There is no set format or checklist for developing a course portfolio since each will be unique to the course, content material, and discipline. In general, a course portfolio primarily represents personal testimonies of teaching experience and practice. Consequently, individual authors control the main format and content of their course portfolio, although the inclusion of specific key elements in all course portfolios can improve their accessibility.

UNL Fellowship Program

While each school has a different model for Peer Review of Teaching, let us highlight the approach we use at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln (UNL). At UNL, peer review teams consisting of 2-5 faculty members from a department or program participate in a year-long (August to May) fellowship where they write a benchmark portfolio which represents a snapshot of students’ learning within a particular course. The portfolio enables faculty to generate questions that they would like to investigate about their teaching. They write three interactions that reflect on their course syllabi and their goals for students, consider the particulars of how teaching methods are helping students meet the course goals, and document and analyze student learning. Throughout the year, fellows meet with other project participants to share and discuss issues emerging from one another’s investigations and from assigned readings on teaching-related issues. At the end of the year, fellows link the three interactions together, integrating examples and analysis of student work into a course portfolio that represents their teaching and their students’ learning. Completed portfolios are posted on this website for peer sharing. Fellows also participate in a two-day retreat where they reflect upon their fellowship experience and discus their changed attitudes towards teaching and measuring student learning.

Once faculty complete UNL’s fellowship year, they can continue investigating issues in their teaching through an advanced program where they work in interdisciplinary teams over the course of a single semester. Drawing upon Randy Bass’s notion of seeing in one’s teaching “a set of problems worth pursuing as an ongoing intellectual focus,” advanced team participants identify an issue they want to systematically investigate through writing an inquiry portfolio. The advanced program provides faculty with opportunities to document improvements in their teaching over time and to assess the long-term impact of teaching changes, the success of teaching approaches, and the accomplishment of student learning. As faculty continue in the project, they are encouraged to take on campus leadership and mentor positions for supporting campus excellence in teaching and student learning.