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27.02.2009  (jp)

Newsletter 1

Editorial

Peer Review is as a form of professional external evaluation which is widely used in Higher Education in Europe today. In the sector of vocational education and training it has so far been marginal. Yet, with the successful implementation of self-evaluation of VET providers in many countries the interest in external evaluation through Peers, i.e. colleagues from similar institutions, has increased: External evaluation by Peers - which are also called "critical friends" - is expected to complement internal evaluations with an outside view, to shed light on "blind spots", to promote the professional dialogue between institutions and to support the evaluated VET providers in their strive toward quality improvement.

The European Peer Review Procedure for initial VET
In the Leonardo da Vinci project "Peer Review in initial VET", Peer Review has been transferred from Higher Education and a European standard procedure which is geared especially to the sector of initial education and training has been developed by an expert team from seven European countries. This procedure has been laid down in a European Peer Review Manual. A first version of this Manual has been available since November 2005 and is currently undergoing professional feedback from experts from all over Europe. Additionally, a web-based Peer Training Programme has been developed to support the practical implementation of Peer Review. More than 85 Peers from all over Europe have applied for participation in the pilot phase.

Current activities: Piloting Peer Reviews in Europe
Currently, the European Peer Review procedure is being piloted throughout Europe: 15 transnational Peer Reviews are being conducted in eight European countries between April 2006 and November 2006, the majority of which will take place within the next two months. Two Peer Reviews of Italian VET Providers have already been conducted and finalised in spring - allowing for some first impressions of the partners involved on what Peer Review is all about.

What to expect from this Newsletter
This Newsletter wants to give an introduction to Peer Review as an external evaluation procedure for initial vocational education and training in Europe: A definition of Peer Review is followed by a description of the European Peer Review Manual. First practical experiences with Peer Review from the pilot phase are presented in a contribution by the Italian project partners. "Peer Review in a nutshell" gives a brief overview of the project and contact details.

We hope that our Newsletter provides relevant and interesting information for VET professionals in Europe. Should you have questions or need more information, please contact us. We welcome feedback and look forward to hearing from you.


Maria Gutknecht-Gmeiner
Project Coordinator
Österreichisches Institut für Berufsbildungsforschung
Austrian Institute for Research on Vocational Training
m.gutknecht-gmeiner@oeibf.at

Contents

  • What is Peer Review?
  • European Peer Review Manual
  • Peer Review and the Italian VET providers
  • The project "Peer Review in initial VET" in a nutshell
 What is Peer Review?

Peer Review is a form of external evaluation with the aim to support the reviewed educational institution in its efforts for quality assurance and quality development.

An external group of experts, so called peers, is invited to judge the quality of different fields of the institution such as the quality of education and training provision of individual departments or of the entire organisation. During the evaluation process, the peers visit the reviewed institution.

Peers are external but work in a similar environment and have specific professional expertise and knowledge of the evaluated subject. They are "persons of equal standing" with the persons whose performance is reviewed.

Peer Review builds upon quality assurance and development already in place. If integrated into the quality cycle, Peer Review supports continuing quality improvement.
 


 European Peer Review Manual

A first draft version of the European Peer Review Manual is available now. 


 Peer Review and the Italian VET providers

The evaluation of Italian VET providers is a process which has still to be fully realised.

• Schools: Most state schools have developed self-evaluation but up now no external evaluation is provided; inspectors visit the school mostly for formal reasons.

• Training Centres: The regional training centres have to be accredited by the Regional administrations in order to operate and receive public grants. Some of them practice self-evaluation, too. The regional inspections are mostly focussed on checking the compliance of the training center to the accreditation rules.
Many VET providers are also certified on the basis of the ISO 9001 model.

In this context Peer Review can be a very interesting tool to develop the quality assurance system of Italian VET providers. In particular two features of the model can be attractive for many of them:

• The flexibility of the model: The extent and the focus of the Peer review can be customised according to the needs of the providers. It is up to them to decide whether to receive a full review, covering many different thematic areas, or a partial review, focussed on the main strategic areas;

• The bottom-up approach; the Peer Review can be started at local level by at least two providers who decide to organise a mutual Peer Review by exchanging the Peers, who visit the other school or training center; If there are three providers they organize a "triangle" of Peer Reviews. In any case it is not necessary to wait for a central decision or for a central inspection to have the Reviev.

Therefore the proposal to join the Leonardo Project "Peer Review in initial VET" to experiment with the model of the Peer Review was promptly accepted by four Italian providers, one of them has also accepted to pay the Review expenses entirely from its own funds. The Italian VET providers acting as "operative partners" in the project are two schools (Istituto professionale per l'Industria e l'Artigianato, Monza and Istituto di Istruzione superiore "Don Milani - Depero", Rovereto) and two training centres (CNOS-FAP of Fossano and Ciofs-FP of Puglia).

The first Peer Review of the Leonardo project was conducted successfully from April 2 to 5, 2006 by the Italian operative partner CNOS-FAP in the training center of Fossano, with the aim to assess the Peer Review method and to test the European Peer Review Manual. A specific focus of the review was to create indicators geared to specific targets. These indicators were used for the interviews during the Peer Review as well as the assessment carried out by the Peers. The Peers were two teachers coming from other Italian operative patners, an Italian expert coming from the National Institute for Evaluation and a Danish Peer.

Comment from CNOS-FAP Fossano:
"We think that a review by an international group helps us to check up better our quality system and the quality area'Learning and Teaching' that we don't usually assess."

The second Peer Review was conducted from June 5 to 7, 2006 in the Istituto professionale per l'Industria e l'Artigianato, Monza. IPSIA Monza asked for a complete evaluation of all topics linked to teaching and learning as well as the "social climate" within the institute: The quality areas chosen were "Learning and teaching", "Curricula", "Assessment and tests" and "Social participation & interactions". The peers were two teachers from other Italian VET providers, an Italian expert coming from the National Institute for Evaluation and a Finnish Peer.

Comment from IPSIA Monza
"We want to reflect upon our activities in order to improve our educational provision. Peer Review allows us to know other realities which have common as well as different features with us. Therefore Peer Review allows a dialectic comparison among different educational processes and their contents, the feedback of the Peers helps us to clarify our own work."

In a first reflection on the Peer Reviews, the two Italian operative partners maintain that the outside perspective on their educational provision has provided them with new insights. They value the high priority given to the "core business" of VET, the teaching and learning processes in the institutions.

From the point of VET providers but also from a system level perspective the supra-institutional, transnational aspect is considered a central asset of the European Peer Review procedure: Teachers and other VET professionals from different schools and countries work together in Peer Teams and give helpful feedback to their colleagues in the reviewed institution - linking institutions within the national systems and even across borders to exchange ideas and good practice.

Comments of the Peers
"The team work was great."
"The Peer review procedure allows the peers to use different methodologies in order to collect quickly a lot of information without wasting of time."
"A positive aspect was the appropriate previous training."


Giorgio Allulli, Ismene Tramontano (ISFOL)


 The project "Peer Review in initial VET" in a nutshell

The project "Peer Review in inital VET" introduces Peer Review as an innovative instrument of quality assurance and development to the initial VET sector in Europe. The instrument is being transferred from the tertiary sector where the use of Peer Review is prevalent to the upper secondary sector of initial vocational education and training (ISCED 3/4). A common European standard for implementing Peer Review will promote co-operation and understanding as well as enhance transparency between the diverse vocational education and training systems in Europe.

What is a Peer Review?
Peer Review is a form of external evaluation carried out by peers, i.e. "persons of equal standing", who visit the reviewed institution during the evaluation process. Areas of assessment may be the quality of education and training provision of individual departments or the entire organisation. Peer Review builds upon quality assurance and development already in place. If integrated into the quality cycle, Peer Review supports continuing quality improvement.

Project duration
October 2004 to September 2007

25 partners from eleven countries
15 of them are VET providers/ institutions
Participating countries: Austria, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Hungary, Scotland, Switzerland

Extended network supports partnership
The extended project network comprises various institutions: VET providers, research institutions, public authorities, social partners, enterprises.

European Peer Review Manual 2005 available from öibf
A draft version of the European Peer Review Manual is available in English from the project management at öibf. It introduces a European standard procedure for the use of Peer Reviews in VET institutions and provides practical guidelines for implementing Peer Reviews in quality assurance and development.

Peer Training Programme online
A web-based Peer Training Programme prepares the Peers for their tasks in the review exercise.

15 Pilot Peer Reviews in eight countries
From April to November 2006 the Peer Review procedure outlined in the draft European Peer Review Manual is being tested in eight countries. All 13 operative partners of the project carry out pilot Peer Reviews. With one additional partner joining the project and one partner conducting two reviews in different departments, the European Peer Review procedure will be piloted in a total of 15 Reviews.

Plans for the future
• Austrian Conference on Peer Review in initial VET: March 2007
• International Conference on Peer Review in initial VET: September 2007, University of Pécs, Hungary
• Follow-up project "Peer Review Extended" submitted to the European Commission in August 2006
• Continue to develop and test the European Peer Review procedure
• Keep on enlarging the extended project network

Project Management at öibf (AT)
öibf - Austrian Institute for Research on Vocational Training: www.oeibf.at, +43-1-310 33 34-0
Maria Gutknecht-Gmeiner: m.gutknecht-gmeiner@oeibf.at
Barbara Neubauer: b.neubauer@oeibf.at

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.