Faculty-led Inquiry into Reflective and Scholarly Teaching (FIRST), formerly known as the Peer Review of Teaching Project, is a professional development program that provides a model for how you can document, assess, and make visible your teaching and your students’ learning. Even if you value and support excellence in teaching, it is often difficult to capture the intellectual work of your teaching in a form that can be conveyed easily to others. This year-long program supports faculty in documenting learning through workshops, writing retreats, small group discussions with peers, and general discussions about pedagogy.
The FIRST Approach
The FIRST program, formerly known as the Peer Review of Teaching Project, is a powerful form of professional development for your teaching that offers many benefits, as the more than 500 UNL faculty who have participated can attest.
The course portfolio you develop in the first-year program is founded on sound, evidence-based pedagogical processes and can be used to engage other instructors in your area, inform departmental curriculum, provide evidence of teaching reflection for tenure and/or promotion files, and supplement materials for teaching awards and recognition. Further, the program provides opportunities to discuss matters of teaching in a constructive and supportive climate with colleagues across disciplines.About the First-Year Program
The Advanced Program provides you an opportunity to pursue your teaching from a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL) approach with a close-knit community of inquisitive teaching scholars. Past participants have presented their projects at conferences, published manuscripts based on their projects, and won teaching innovation awards for their ideas.About the Advanced Program
As a result of my participation in this project and my interactions with peers, the biggest impact on my teaching has been for me to refocus my thoughts concerning course development. Instead of blindly hoping to achieve my course goals, I now aim directly at them.
Christine Marvin, Ph.D.
By reorganizing the goals of my course, developing rubrics for evaluating student work, and assessing my classroom activities, I now have a focused approach for linking my teaching to my students’ learning.
Frauke Hachtmann, Ph.D.
The feedback that I provide on student work is much more detailed and user-friendly. Students have indicated that they have a better idea of how their grade was calculated/assigned.
Dana Fritz, MFA
The reflective writing process used in the project was so useful that it inspired me to assign my students to reflect in writing on their drawing process and progress. This written component helps me to better understand their perceptions of the course and helps students to see their progress more clearly.
My experience encouraged me to finally get rid of having lectures in my classroom. I made the leap to a 100% student-centered pedagogy because of my peer review experiences. It made me completely aware of how little my students were learning.
My participation in the project has given me a fundamental understanding of how to determine my course goals and outcomes before developing the actual syllabus. I have been inspired to work with my department colleagues to create goals and outcomes for all our courses.
Leen-Kiat Soh, Ph.D.
From my participation, I am more aware of things now. I am better at communicating and motivating the students about what I expect and what they should expect out of the courses.
As a result of my participation, I revised the assignments to include more reflective journaling and discussion. The journaling provided a written documentation of the process.
Marilynn Schnepf, Ph.D.
I am now more concerned with the question "How do I know if students are learning what I want them to learn?" I feel that the course is more coherent and learning activities are more closely tied together.
Larkin Powell, Ph.D.
By participating in the project, I have added lectures, discussions, and activities that are directly tied to course objectives, and I better monitor student groups.
How to Participate
Whether you are a successful teacher who seeks to document the impact of your teaching, improve your teaching of a particular course, or investigate a particular issue in your teaching, FIRST is for you.