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Teaching and Learning Circles: An initiative aimed at enhancing teaching culture and practice

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 4:15pm – 4:45pm parallel session



Room 8 – 303 B09 Sem



Dr Tracy Rogers
University of Otago, New Zealand

Dr Kathryn Sutherland
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Emma Tennant
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Dr Irina Elgort
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Associate Professor Clinton Golding
University of Otago, New Zealand

Dr Rob Wass
University of Otago, New Zealand

Dr Julie Timmermans
University of Otago, New Zealand



Peer review of teaching often involves evaluative judgements about teachers and instructions about how to improve, resulting in staff anxiety. However, if implemented in a non-judgemental and respectful manner, peer review of teaching can foster a supportive teaching culture that encourages teachers’ self-reflection and personal development. This presentation discusses the influence of a collaborative peer review of teaching initiative on enriching teaching culture and practices at two universities in New Zealand. The Teaching and Learning Circles (TLC) peer review initiative provides teachers with a non-judgemental, supportive, and collaborative way of enhancing their teaching practice. The TLC framework encourages self-reflection and collegial conversations about teaching practices rather than having an ‘expert’ evaluate another teacher. Teachers observe two to three members of their TLC, and then use their observations to inform and enhance their own teaching practice. They may ask for advice on their teaching, though such feedback is not required.

The project drew on pre and post questionnaires, in-depth interviews, and participants’ reflective notes.  Questionnaire data were analysed descriptively and provided prompts for interview questions. Interview transcripts and participants’ reflective notes were thematically analysed by the research team, initially by each member separately, and then collaboratively. Preliminary findings indicate that the TLC framework provides staff with a positive peer review experience and that the initiative has the potential to enhance teaching culture within institutions. Participants remarked that due to the social and voluntary nature of the initiative they felt less isolated in their teaching, and benefitted greatly from collegial conversations about teaching. Observations of others’ teaching and informal feedback from colleagues contributed to changes in teaching practice. We suggest that academic developers may wish to consider Teaching and Learning Circles as a positive way of enhancing teaching practices and culture, that starts not from a place of judgement but of reflection and collegiality.


Presentation topic

Academics – Academic Development

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