What is Peer Review?

During the year-long program, faculty engage in individual work, faculty retreats, and small group discussions with peers to complete careful course planning and conduct assessment of  learning and teaching. Participants traditionally focus on a course in the Spring semester as this allows for dedicated time to reflect on and develop the course structure and activities. With the goal of documenting, promoting, and valuing the intellectual work of teaching, faculty develop a course portfolio

What is a Course Portfolio?

Near the end of the year and following the completion of the semester, participants integrate their activities of the project into a final course portfolio. This portfolio is not a course archive but rather a brief reflective document summarizing the course, the planning process and assessment of learning and teaching. A portfolio typically includes:

  • Introduction of course goals and content
  • Articulation of key course learning objectives
  • Identification of potential course assessments
  • Selection of appropriate instructional strategies
  • Documentation measuring student learning
  • Reflection on the relationships between course objectives, activities, and assessment strategies

There is no set format or checklist for developing a course portfolio. Each portfolio is unique to the course, content material, and discipline. In general, a course portfolio primarily represents personal testimonies of teaching experience and practice. Consequently, individual authors control the main format and content of their course portfolio, although the inclusion of specific key elements in all course portfolios can improve their accessibility. The project provides support and structure for developing the course portfolio There are two standard types of course portfolios: benchmark portfolio and inquiry portfolio.


A benchmark portfolio represents a snapshot of students’ learning within a particular course and enables faculty to generate questions to investigate about their teaching. Developing a benchmark portfolio is the focus of first-year participants in the program. In the semester prior to the course being taught, participants engage in retreats, small group discussions, and written activities that assist in developing or refining course goals and objectives. Prior to teaching the course, participants reflect on their instructional strategies,course assignments, and course materials as they relate to course goals and objectives. During the semester in which the course is taught, the retreats, small group discussions, and written activities guide participants on conducting assessment on learning and teaching.


Whereas the benchmark portfolio takes a more general and holistic view of the course, the inquiry portfolio focuses around a specific question or issue regarding teaching pedagogies, practices, course structures, and student learning over time. When first involved in the project, faculty initially write a benchmark portfolio to identify issues or questions within their teaching that become the focus of the inquiry portfolio. Thus, advanced participants (i.e., those who have completed the first-year program and a benchmark portfolio) typically develop and inquiry portfolio focusing specifically on a key course issue or question. An inquiry portfolio provides faculty with opportunities to document improvement in their teaching over time and to assess the long-term impact of teaching changes, the success of teaching approaches, and the accomplishment of student learning. The prompts that follow are designed to help faculty begin this scholarly investigation into their own teaching. Completing an inquiry portfolio as part of the advanced project still includes small group discussions and a formal structure and activities to guide completion of the project. The inquiry portfolio, however, is more independent compared to the first year project and completion of the benchmark portfolio.

External Comments and Review

While peer review by colleagues is routinely used in research, it is also a valuable process in the teaching arena, particularly in terms of evaluating teaching effectiveness. Pat Hutchings, who directed the Teaching Initiative of the AAHE, stated, "The peer review of teaching can, in its most powerful forms, be less a matter of judging teachers than of improving teaching, with the focus moving increasingly to ways we can help each other improve the quality of our collective contribution to students’ learning." We invite you to become part of a community of scholars who can assess teaching with respect to improved student learning by commenting on or formally reviewing a course portfolio in the repository.