IAA is very close to wrapping up the peer-review process for academic programs and core courses for the 2019-2020 academic year, and feedback from the peer-reviewers will be hitting your inboxes soon. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to offer a few thoughts about processing peer-review feedback.

We all like to make A's, particularly when we have put in significant effort on a challenging task. I think it is easy to get caught in the trap of seeing anything less than "exemplary" as a personal failure. So, a few things to consider to help keep peer-review feedback in perspective:

  • When it comes to assessment, there is no "finished." Our whole philosophy of student learning assessment hinges on "continuous improvement," meaning even a top score does not mean you are finished. There are always ways to improve our processes and to better prepare our students for their future lives and careers. When reviewing your feedback, look for the suggestions that will be most meaningful to your course, program, faculty, and students. Prioritize those suggestions as part of your action plan for the next time around.
  • It's really not about you; it's a collaboration. We rely heavily on our academic program and core course coordinators for organizing the assessment process from start to finish, compiling all the data, and submitting a finished document on time, but this is not (or should not be) a solo activity! The assessment document should reflect the contributions of all of the faculty involved in teaching that course or program. The feedback is not targeted at a specific author, but is meant to direct the joint efforts of the entire program or course faculty.
  • Everyone is a beginner before they become exemplary. Sometimes, "beginning" or "developing" is exactly where you should be. If you are working with a brand new course, program, or assessment process, "beginning" might be an accurate description of where you are right now -- and that's okay! We all have to begin somewhere. By the same token, if you're still refining your student learning outcomes or your assessment instrument, then you are "developing." It's fine to be at these stages, just make sure you have a plan for progressing in future assessment cycles.
  • If it's unclear, ask. Our peer-reviewers are humans, just like you. They are faculty who serve on committees and complete the peer-review of up to a dozen assessment documents on a tight deadline on top of their regular teaching responsibilities. So, if something in your feedback is unclear, it's not intentional on their part. Contact us with your questions, and we will help to clarify any feedback that seems confusing.

Keeping these points in mind, this past academic year has presented some challenges that none of us could be fully prepared for, and it has been a steep learning curve across the board. We know that a lot of things -- including assessment -- did not go according to plan. Our peer-reviewers, who are faculty from across colleges and disciplines, were in the same situation and understand that this was an unusual year. The scores and comments that you receive from these reviewers are meant to be understood in that total context. Don't take this feedback on as a personal critique, especially this year. Take on these comments as suggestions for next steps as we all hold out hope for the end of this pandemic and an opportunity to make meaningful improvements to student learning under less difficult circumstances.

And in the meantime, we'd love to hear about what you've learned or what accomplishments you're most proud of while teaching during a global pandemic. Take a moment to share your thoughts so that we can celebrate with you.

Onwards and upwards!