Funders ask about peer pressure

April 28, 1995

Welsh further education colleges are being consulted on whether they want peer evaluation to become a formal part of the quality assessment process, writes David Charter.

In practice, the views of visiting lecturers have played a role in college assessments for more than a year as part of a voluntary pilot project.

The Further Education Funding Council for Wales believes peer evaluation should have a central place in assessment.

It trained 200 lecturers as "associate assessors" during the pilot programme, who have worked alongside members of the Office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate of Schools in Wales, which organises college inspections.

It means that, unlike in England or Scotland, college lecturers will have an influence on colleagues' resources, since a high assessment grade attracts more funding council cash.

"Peer evaluation is standard practice now in Wales and it has worked well," said funding council chief executive John Andrews.

"One of the advantages is that you have a group of staff experienced in assessment who bring that back to the culture of their own college which helps to establish internal self-assessment," he said.

The council is asking the institutions for their support for peer evaluation after some of the smaller colleges shunned the pilot scheme.

Its report says: "Favourable comments have been received from a number of senior managers of institutions about the initiative. On the other hand, a few institutions have shown a lack of commitment, for example, in not nominating staff or withdrawing staff at short notice from an agreed programme."

Formalising the process would lay down responsibilities and liabilities of associate assessors, including need for confidentiality.

It is suggested that colleges receive a nominal fee for the release of the lecturer, and that he or she should not be called upon for more than ten days a year or five consecutive days. Associate assessors would recieve up to seven days training.

Mr Andrews said there had been no hint that confidentiality had been breached during the voluntary scheme.

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