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Acad Med. 1998 Mar;73(3):266-71.

Successful peer review of courses: a case study.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison 53792-4108, USA.


The authors describe their school's system of peer review for courses, established in 1988 to facilitate faculty evaluation and continual course and curriculum improvement. (The system has been temporarily suspended while the school's new curriculum becomes established.) They explain how the system was created and then report how faculty reviews of courses over the five-year operation of the system compared with students' reviews of the same courses. The faculty and students' ratings were in agreement 75% of the time. When not in agreement, the students' ratings tended to upgrade courses that were not very demanding, had easy grading, and emphasized clinical details, often at the expense of basic concepts and the big picture. The authors then document how the work of the peer review system favorably influenced the transformation of the school's curriculum. They also provide guidelines for the creation and operation of a course review process that uses faculty peers. The authors maintain that the peer review system worked because it was run by a committee of experienced and respected teachers who had been selected by their peers, the other faculty. Additional reasons for its success were that the school's faculty supported and respected the committee and its work, that course directors helped evaluate their courses, and that peer reviewers took their work seriously despite having no remuneration, and the clearly positive impact of the review system on faculty interaction, faculty-student interaction, and the reform of the curriculum.

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