InPractice - It’s a privilege to review you

Peer review is a powerful tool for maintaining and enhancing professional practice and status. IfL asked its reviewers for their views on this most important of professional processes

To mark the fifth anniversary of the professional formation process for further education teachers and trainers, IfL spoke to its small army of professional reviewers to gain their insights on this professional process.

The survey results bear witness to the expertise, insight and energy of the IfL members whose work since 2008 has helped more than 15,000 teachers and trainers gain Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills Status (QTLS) and Associate Teacher Learning and Skills (ATLS).

The role of peer review in professional formation

Members undertaking professional formation leading to QTLS or ATLS must demonstrate their ability to use effectively the skills and knowledge gained in teacher training and to illustrate how they apply the professional standards required of a teacher.

Each member’s application is different: it tells their story of their journey into teaching and their development as a teacher. In evaluating these applications, peer reviewers look for three things:

  • Is there sufficient evidence?
  • Is the evidence properly supported and authenticated?
  • Is the evidence relevant to the to the member’s current job role

Insights of IfL’s peer reviewers

Many of our reviewers reflected upon the sheer buzz of excitement they get when reviewing excellent work.

Gail Lydon, a teacher at Selby College, captured the feelings of many when she said: “The process has been dominated by high points and these are the moments when reading an application that the hairs stand up on your arms; when you wish you had had a teacher like this; and when you are tired but you know you are going to read every word.”

Rebecca Woolley, an associate tutor at Edge Hill University, said: “With each review, I gained a window into the breadth and depth of our fantastic, vibrant sector and invariably came away inspired by some of the portfolios and the stories they told.”

Nigel Cannar, teacher at Richard Rose Central Academy, said: “For me, it is one of the best continuing professional development (CPD) activities I undertake. It has invigorated and informed my own practice.” The importance of gaining qualifications leading to QTLS and ATLS is not lost on reviewers, all of whom are qualified FE teachers having undertaken professional formation themselves.

Engin Mustafa, head of learning and development at APCOA Parking, said: “I feel more confident in my skills and abilities now that they have been reviewed and recognised formally. It has undoubtedly helped me in my career progression.”

Elaine Szpytma said: “I undertook professional formation to demonstrate my professional status. As a teacher educator I see this as important.”

Steve Ingle, a lecturer in education at the University of Cumbria, said that he was proud to have trained as a teacher ‘on the job’ but that family and friends thought he ‘wasn’t a real teacher’. QTLS, he said, allowed him to prove that he was a ‘real’ teacher. Steve added: “Peer review supports the key principles of self-regulation, reflection and democracy – fundamental to any professional body – a standard set and maintained by members for its members.”

Many reviewers shared Steve’s view that there is a clear link between peer review and the independence, status and voice of the FE teaching profession. Paul Matthews, initial teacher training coordinator at City College Plymouth, said: “Although governments change and so do regulations, this essential truth remains: we are professional teachers trying to help our learners learn and find work in a staggering variety of challenging contexts.”

Geoff Rebbeck, a specialist in the delivery of effective teaching and learning through technology, said: “Peer Review remains the best part of QTLS because it seeks to establish a body of opinion among teachers about what it means to be competent.”

Gillian Forrester, head of teaching and learning at Gateshead College, said: “A real, positive value of peer review is that it is removed from the enormous amount of performance management practices we have in the FE sector today and therefore gives practitioners breathing space to be honest and feel safe and secure in a supportive environment to experiment and to move forward.”

Debra Findler, an advanced skills teacher at Stoke-on-Trent College, agreed: “It is also invaluable in generating new ideas relating to teaching and learning strategies and gives one the confidence to experiment more in the classroom.”

Other reviewers also remarked on the benefits to their own teaching practice. Anne Samson, operations director for the Westminster Partnership Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training, said: “The review process has assisted in opening up the complexity of the FE sector. This in turn has provided challenges and opportunities for CPD in a way I wouldn’t otherwise have had.”

Debra Johnson, lecturer at Petroc college, said: “On an individual level, peer review makes significant contribution to individuals’ career development through nationally respected recognition of good practice and the expectation that regular reflective CPD is undertaken.”

Beverley Johnson, a lecturer at Kingston Maurward College, said: “Peer review is one of the best CPD methods. We all learn from each other - different techniques, styles and delivery.”

Karl Durrant, professional development lead at CITB-Construction Skills, said: “I felt honoured to review as it offered a terrific insight in to the lives of real people pursuing real goals to better their own lives and others around them.”

Finally, Delwen Eirlys Wilkinson, a tutor and teacher trainer with Rutland County Council, said simply: “I have always thought it a privilege to act as a reviewer.”

Find out more about QTLS and ATLS

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