‘Observation has set in’: comparing students and peers as reviewers of teaching

Jennifer Scoles, Mark Huxham (Lead Author), Ursula Green, Samantha Purves, Zoe Welsh, Andrew Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peer review is a powerful method to enhance teaching in higher education.
Peers, however, may not be the most relevant people in evaluating
teaching success; as the most important stakeholders in learning, students’
evaluations need to be heard. Whilst some efforts to capture ‘the student
voice’ are simplistic and may foster consumerist approaches, adopting
‘radical collegiality’ towards students may provide the benefits of peer
review whilst avoiding some of its disadvantages. Here we describe the
Students as Colleagues project, which trained student volunteers as
evaluators of teaching. To assess the ability of students to provide useful
reviews, we compared their evaluative feedback with that from academic
peers, using a paired design and qualitative and quantitative data. Students
gave significantly more positive comments, and just as many negative and
directive comments, as academic peers. Student colleagues emphasised the
positive personal (rather than professional) capacities of their reviewees,
encouraged expressed vulnerability and drew on their broad experiences as
students rather than from professional perspectives. Participation changed
how students saw their abilities and helped ‘humanise’ both the reviewees
and the university as a whole. Our results and standpoint theory suggest
that students’ evaluative feedback is the most valuable perspective to inform
teaching enhancement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-899
Number of pages13
JournalAssessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Issue number6
Early online date14 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jul 2016


  • peer review
  • peer observation
  • student as collegue
  • standpoint theory


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