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

Huxham, Mark; Scoles, Jenny; Green, Ursula; Purves, Samantha; Welsh, Zoe; Gray, Andrew


Jenny Scoles

Ursula Green

Samantha Purves

Zoe Welsh

Andrew Gray


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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2016
Online Publication Date Jul 14, 2016
Publication Date 2017
Deposit Date Jul 5, 2016
Journal Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
Print ISSN 0260-2938
Electronic ISSN 1469-297X
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 6
Pages 887-899
Keywords Teaching, reviewers, students, peers,
Public URL