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Peer Review

02/24/09  (jp)


Peer Review is a very flexible instrument which can be adapted to different needs: It can be used to evaluate certain processes or quality areas of an institution but also to assess the quality management of an entire organisation. It is a meta-instrument and builds upon strategies and activities of quality assurance and development (such as self-assessment, ISO, EFQM, and BSC) already in place in different countries and institutions.

Peer Review introduces an external view to an institution and allows for a combination of quality control and quality development. It leaves a range of opportunities for both the players at the institutional level as well as political decision-makers and educational authorities to devise a procedure which is acceptable to all involved actors and stakeholders. Because of the intermediation of peers, the instrument is also expected to meet with higher acceptance from the VET providers than other forms of external control like inspection, testing, meta-evaluation etc. Still, educational authorities may influence the procedure concerning e.g. the (mandatory) themes of the assessment, the selection of the peers, and the consequences of the results. Contrary to most traditional inspection measures Peer Review not only focuses on input but also comprises evaluation of throughput, output, and - if possible - outcome.

The benefit for individual VET institutions which participate in the Peer Review process is expected to be high: Peer Reviews usually entail site visits and a communicative validation of the findings. This allows for a first-hand appraisal of strengths and weaknesses of the vocational education and training provision by the peers. Additionally, critical feedback from the peers is accompanied by elements of 'peer coaching/consulting'. The expertise of persons from different institutions and - in the case of transnational reviews - different countries and systems is tapped and a mutual learning process stimulated. Areas of improvement are identified and discussed during the review and thus continuing quality development is enhanced.

Mutual Peer Review often leads to the emergence of quality networks of education providers. Exchange is fostered and transparency increased. Transnational Peer Review contributes to transfer of know-how and experiences and a common understanding in Europe and improves co-operation and comparability in the 'jungle' of quality assurance and development instruments currently in use on the national and the European levels.