Peer Consultation Program
What is peer consultation?
The Centre for Teaching and Learning at the University of Alberta provides interested instructors with a peer consultation service that is based on a collaborative peer development model. This model adopts a learning-centered approach where instructors are viewed as active and reflective practitioners who want to better understand and improve their teaching and their students’ learning. The consultation process is an iterative cycle of observation, documentation and analysis of teaching practices and students’ behaviours and responses as a means to build personal understanding of their learning and develop a plan to refine and/or test new ways of supporting that learning.
The main goals of the peer consultation program are:
- To support and enhance the teaching skills and confidence of faculty and sessional instructors through critical learning conversations focused on the learners and their learning.
- To foster collaboration between peers sharing similar interests and experiences about teaching and learning.
- To provide a safe environment enabling people to engage in an active process of reflection on and experimentation in their teaching practices.
- To engage broad and varied teaching community members across campus.
Why would I want to request a peer consultation?
The collaborative peer development model acknowledges that change in teaching practices is best achieved through active involvement in discourse about pedagogical theory; critical reflection on authentic, context specific situations; and, collaboration with peers in a non-threatening and non-judgmental environment. It recognizes that while experience cannot be transmitted from one person to another, the ability to observe, reflect and analyze situations can be enhanced through shared inquiries and formative feedback. It is hoped that engagement in peer consultation will lead you to developing personal understanding of what constitutes quality teaching and promote the development of a repertoire of techniques and skills (i.e. development of new instructional tasks and assessment tools) to implement these understandings in a practical way in your teaching context.
Features of the peer consultation program
Who are the peer consultants?
Peer consultants are volunteers who are all teachers at the University of Alberta with a range of teaching experience and disciplinary backgrounds. They have been trained in how to facilitate student learning and have a genuine interest in working with their colleagues to improve teaching and learning. They bring a second pair of eyes and a genuine interest to observe and question students’ learning in different contexts in a non-evaluative way. The role of the peer consultant is to help you unpack and deconstruct questions surrounding how and whether students’ learning is occurring in specific situations and to decide on potential changes in your teaching that could lead to your goals and aspirations as an instructor.
What is involved in a consultation?
To support the development of the inquiry process about students’ learning, those requesting a peer consultation are encouraged to engage in a number of collaborative activities (see below) throughout the semester with one or more selected peer consultants in addition to meetings for feedback, discussion and reflection. You may also wish to choose to extend the consultation process over two semesters and/or have a yearly follow-up to discuss perceptions and impact of the process.
Possible collaborative activities:
- Guided observation of a peer consultant’s class with a debriefing session
- Classroom observation by a peer consultant
- Follow-up observation by the same or another peer consultant
- Video recording of a classroom presentation and self-assessment
- Development of a questionnaire to gather student feedback (online or paper)
- Focus group discussion with students lead by a peer consultant
- Collaborative report writing with the peer consultant
How do I request a consultation?
The first step in initiating a peer consultation is to contact the program coordinator at CTL (email@example.com) to set up apreliminary meeting in which you will begin to identify goals and purposes for the consultation and decide the type of consultation that would best meet your goals. You will have the opportunity to select the peer consultant(s) you would like to work with from the profiles provided depending on the type(s) of activities you would like to engage in and the interests and questions you have.
After completion and sharing of the initial purpose of the consultation with the CTL coordinator, a meeting between you and the selected consultant is scheduled, and the purpose and plan for the consultation is discussed. At least one activity from the list of collaborative activities above should be agreed upon and scheduled. Debriefing will follow each activity in which both you and the consultant exchange perspectives on what is working well and where there might be possibilities for change. A plan of action will be agreed upon and follow up will be available if you so desire.
Request a consultation service by filling out CTL's Request for Consultation Service Form