The Importance of Peer Review

Every few years, colleges and universities gather materials and prepare reports to renew their accreditation.

But what if there was a way to streamline this process?

What is accreditation?

According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, “Accreditation is a process of external quality review used by higher education to scrutinize colleges, universities and higher education programs for quality assurance and quality improvement.” While accreditation is not mandatory in the United States—unlike other countries—the benefits range from allowing students to receive certain federal financial aid grants to increasing their job opportunities after graduation.

There are five basic steps in the accreditation process: 1) Preparation and self-examination—when the institution prepares its materials and reports; 2) Peer review—when a team of administration and faculty peers review the prepared materials, reports, and general processes and procedures; 3) Visit and examination—when another team of peers and concerned volunteers conduct the official review; 4) Judgment action made by accreditation organization—when the commission gives the final affirmation or denial; and 5) Continuous review—when, after a few years, the college or university goes through all the steps again. (Via World Wide Learning.)

What are the benefits of having peer review?

Let’s focus on step No. 2—Peer review.

Since peer review allows for a diversity of opinions to be brought to the table, it can remove some of the biases and/or pre-conceived ideas about what works and what doesn’t. This can be particularly beneficial when a staff helps each other prepare for accreditation by peer reviewing each other’s work prior to the official peer review.

Peer review can encourage higher quality work. Where semester lesson plans may have been hurriedly completed right before deadline, peer review can encourage more thorough work.

By suggesting different perspectives, offering innovative ideas, or bringing new research to the table, peer reviewers can also help improve the content of the curriculum. Since no one person knows everything, bringing professors together can strength the course material.

How can we simplify this peer review process?

Since peer review is such an important step, we have worked to make it easier for campuses to facilitate peer review outside the accreditation process.

Our software program—CurricUNET META—provides for increased peer review and instant online access for streamlined review and change processes.

Now, before the official accreditation peer review comes on campus, professors and faculty can easily and seamlessly help each other fine tune their curriculums. We want to make it easier and more convenient for colleges and universities to thrive and excel at their next accreditation checkup.