Research Repository

See what's under the surface

Self-policing or self-improving?: analysing peer reviews between schools in England through the lens of isomorphism

Greany, Toby


Toby Greany


Peer reviews are not compulsory for schools in England, but they have become increasingly common in recent years. There is no single model for how peer reviews operate, but they generally involve staff from at least one other school in reviewing practice in the host school and feeding back their findings. This chapter reviews case study examples and data drawn from two recent studies led by the author (Greany and Higham, 2018; Greany, 2018). It analyses specific examples and assesses how far these reflect the three forms of isomorphism (coercive, mimetic and normative) identified by DiMaggio and Powell (1983). It finds evidence for all three forms of isomorphism, although they generally interact in hybrid forms. Overall, this analysis supports Greany and Higham’s argument that peer review reflects a process of self-policing by schools in response to England’s hierarchical and panoptic accountability system. The more recent study (Greany, 2018) indicates that many Multi-Academy Trusts are moving away from peer reviews towards more hierarchically controlled approaches to assessing school quality as part of a wider set of processes aimed at aligning or standardising practices across schools. However, the available evidence supports DiMaggio and Powell’s conclusion that organisational homogenisation is not necessarily associated with improved performance except where it is combined with wider processes of professional learning for all staff. The chapter concludes by discussing these findings in relation to recent developments in the English school system as well as wider debates on quality, accountability, homogenisation, improvement and innovation in contemporary school systems.

Publisher Springer
Series Title Accountability and Educational Improvement
Book Title School peer review for educational improvement and accountability: Theory, practice and policy implications
Keywords peer review, isomorphism, educational improvement and innovation, school leadership, governance, self-improving school system
Publisher URL

This output is not freely accessible at this point due to copyright restrictions.

Downloadable Citations