In education, peer reviews serve as one of the most potent means of determining teaching effectiveness. The purpose of a peer review is not so much a means of judging teachers as it is a way of improving, but rather it is a means by which to improve teaching through shared learning. It is the goal of shared learning that motivated seven teachers from the South African Extraordinary Schools Coalition (SAESC), as well as three BRIDGE staff members, to engage in a peer review of the St Nicholas Diocesan School in Pietermaritzburg on the 12th of October 2016.
The SAESC, which began in 2010, consists of 23 independent schools and over 20 supporting organisations committed to developing Impact Schools. Impact Schools are high-quality, achievement-oriented schools dedicated to providing disadvantaged learners across South Africa with affordable access to high-quality education. The Coalition is committed to sharing effective practice amongst its members, and the peer review process forms part of that commitment.
The purpose of the peer review process is to improve learner learning by:
collaborating with and supporting participating schools,
sharing and developing best practices in all areas of the school
identifying areas for growth and improvement, and
providing a framework to support the school’s internal development and growth.
The domains that are reviewed are:
Domain 1 – Leadership and Management
Domain 2 – Teaching and Learning
Domain 3 – Culture and Climate
Domain 4 – School and Community
The peer review process draws on the power of collaboration and cooperation – a central tenet of BRIDGE’s work – to encourage the adoption of best practice throughout a school. Too often teaching occurs in pedagogical isolation, but the peer review provides opportunities for educators to open their teaching up to a community of colleagues who can nurture improvement. St. Nicholas’ principal, Leon Grove, captured this when he reflected: “Confucius said, ‘by three methods we may learn wisdom. First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest’. Welcoming the peer review team to St Nicholas has allowed the school to gain wisdom by all three methods. It was a remarkable process that has reinvigorated our passion for providing meaningful education to our learners.”
This is the Coalition’s 17th Peer Review and the CoP looks forward to more opportunities to work collaboratively and share knowledge in 2017.