Using Inter-Institutional Peer Review Teams to improve TBL

As team-based learning (TBL) becomes more widely used, there is an increasing interest in the quality of TBL delivery, specifically on the design of effective application activities (AAs). Partnering with Regis University, the University of Minnesota set out to investigate within this area, with support from a Team Based Learning Collaborative Grant.  Phase 1 of this project focused on identifying criteria for activity quality.  Phase 2 involves application of those criteria to existing AAs used in pharmacy education through the use of inter-institutional peer review teams. The aims of this phase are to: (1) apply the criteria to assess the quality of a sample of pharmacy TBL AAs, and (2) identify essential variables in structuring peer review teams (PRTs) and executing the review process.  

How are we breaking new ground?

Peer review has always been an important part of the scientific process. Many see peer review as part of our professional responsibility as scientists and clinicians, and an important part of the system that maintains the quality of our journals and scientific community. However, peer review is also an important part of our teaching. By providing and receiving feedback from peers, we are able to improve our delivery and communication in the classroom.

This inter-institutional peer review process between U of MN and Regis University serves as a professional development opportunity for those who participate. Participants will be able to connect and network with TBL colleagues across institutions to learn from their perspectives and experiences. It will expose each pharmacy TBL teacher to a variety of AAs conducted by their peers and allow them the chance to examine the quality of these activities in comparison to their own. Participants will also receive peer-evaluations of their own AA. They can use the peer-evaluations in their annual activity reports or within a promotion dossier. More importantly, they can be used to make continuous improvements to TBL activities.

This professional development activity was designed in consultation with a model from O’Sullivan and Irby (2011), who emphasize that faculty development is embedded in two communities of practice, the faculty development community and the workplace community. For purposes of this study, we are focusing on evaluating the faculty development community (i.e. peer review teams) and the interaction of its primary components (facilitator, participants, context, and program).

Prior to the peer review process, PRTs will share information about their school’s TBL implementation to build comradery. Then, peer review of three AAs will be conducted (30 total across 10 teams) using a 14-item quality indicator rubric (the quality indicators were established in Phase 1 of the study). Following the reviews, participant comments and responses to a series of program evaluation questions will be submitted and analyzed. Program designers also respond to a set of evaluation questions which will be analyzed. Using these data sources, a theory on how and why the PRT program worked will be developed as suggested by Haji, Morin and Parker (2013). This model allows us to move beyond only outcomes-based program evaluation (i.e. what are the results of the program), to focus on other important elements of evaluation, such as how is the program working, why is the program working, and what (else) happened besides the intended outcomes.

In Summary

This professional development opportunity is a wonderful example of inter-institutional colleagues coming together to make improvements to the curriculum (i.e. TBL in-class activities) to produce a high-quality education for our students, and to make advancements in faculty development and program evaluation efforts through the use of peer review teams.     

Stay tuned for further updates as Phase 2 moves from implementation to completion and results are generated and ready to be disseminated.

Contacts:  Dr. Diana Langworthy joined the University of Minnesota’s investigators in Phase 2 along with Dr. Kristin Janke, Dr. Gardner Lepp, and graduate student Bob Bechtol, all of whom have been involved with the project since Phase 1.


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