PREP, or Peer-Review Evaluation Process, is a design methodology for use in teams. It is a process by which four to six individuals develop ideas and then share them as a team, so that the team can then select the best idea.
The team starts with a design problem. Then, rather than brainstorm the solution in a team meeting, each member generates an independent idea which is written down. They then critique each other’s ideas, also in writing. Once this is complete, the team holds a meeting in order to reach consensus on which idea is the best.
Here is a brief set of instructions given to students using this process:
- Create an idea on your own.
- Pass your work to the next team member for him/her to review (continue until your work has gone full-circle)
- Review others’ comments on your work
- Discuss the ideas and comments to identify the best idea
- Determine the best idea …there can be only one!
Because people have to write their ideas down, ideas are often better formulated, and there is a written record which may be useful later. Also, people with shy or non-assertive personalities can have their ideas evaluated on an equal footing with other, more aggressive members of the team, and team members who are subordinate can feel freer to express an idea. These social equalizations benefit the team as much as the individual, since the goal is to achieve the very best design – which may have originated with anyone on the team.
The PREP process has been used in Mechanical Engineering classes at MIT for several years. In course 2.007, Design and Manufacturing I, students create robots which compete with each other in a tournament held each spring. In course 2.75, Precision Machine Design, students partner with doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School to solve real-world medical problems by creating new or better medical instruments. PREP has also been taught to high school invention teams called InvenTeams, sponored by the Lemelson-MIT Program.
Although PREP is used for engineering design at MIT, the process is generic enough to be useful in just about any situation that requires a team to solve a problem. To that end, we have created a software implementation of the process which may be downloaded and used by anyone. This is the same software that has been used by Mechanical Engineering students at MIT and some of the Lemelson InvenTeams.
Exploring and Using PREP
- View an overview of Microsoft SharePoint and the iCampus PREP implementation.
- View a presentation on PREP as taught to Lemelson High School Invention Teams.
- Read a primer on Deterministic Design, a larger engineering design process which uses PREP for each of its steps.
- Read MIT Professor Alexander H. Slocum’s chapter on PREP from his forthcoming book FUNdaMENTALS of Design.
- Browse Prof. Slocum’s lectures from MIT course 2.007 – Design and Manufacturing I
- Download SharePoint PREP.
Since PREP is a team-collaboration tool, we turned to SharePoint, Microsoft’s web-based team-collaboration product, to serve as a foundation for our implementation of PREP. SharePoint comes with the ability to manage users, documents, and tasks, relieving us of the need to create these features on our own. Using SharePoint allowed us to concentrate solely on PREP.
Download our SharePoint PREP implementation here.