Improving peer review and peer assessment

Workshop for students about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of peer feedback

SHORT DESCRIPTION

We developed a workshop in which students actively learn about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of peer feedback. We used previously handed in papers (papers marked with either a 5, 7 or 9) to practice peer review. Additionally, we made use of the Self and Peer Assessment building block in Blackboard, to evaluate the work of fellow students against defined criteria (a rubric). We believe that this combination of in-class teaching and the use of the online tool encourage students to take the peer assessment activities more seriously.

As a teacher, I was a bit scared that the activity of comparing students’ ratings of papers to teachers’ ratings of papers could lead to a ‘nasty’ discussion between students and teachers. Luckily it did not. Students quite liked that their rating of a student paper was compared to an actual teacher’s rating of the same paper. However, at the end of the course the level of trust (and sometimes the quality of feedback) appeared still low among some students.

An advantage of using the BB tool was that teachers could check if the review of peers was done, a disadvantage was that it appeared technically impossible to have students share their feedback with small groups of students.

Objective

With the innovation we aimed to improve the peer review activities in the course HSO-31306. During this course students work individually on a proposal for a literature study. Peer assessment is used to provide each student with feedback on their proposal. Peer assessment has some great advantages:

  1. It distributes workload from the teachers;
  2. Students obtain feedback from multiple fellow students;
  3. Students benefit from the analytical experience of evaluating the work of other students.

However, the peer review system needed to be improved so that the learning experience through the peer assessment is of higher value. A problem that we encountered is that not all students take this peer review seriously. Also, not all students trust that fellow students are capable of judging their work. This project tackles those problems.

Strong Points

  • Stimulation of an active learning environment: Both the in-class workshop as well as the Blackboard peer assessment tool involve active participation and learning by the students. During the in-class workshop, most time is spent on practising with peer assessment and providing peer feedback. The Blackboard tool is used to provide and obtain the peer feedback on the actual assignment of the course (i.e. research proposal), and contains a rubric with pre-defined assessment criteria.
  • Solutions for growing student numbers: Peer assessment distributes workload from the teachers to the students. Last year, 47 students took part in this course. That number was expected to increase to approx. 60 course participants this year, and approx. 70 in the year thereafter. Because students work on an individual assignment during the course, it would mean an enormous workload if the teacher(s) themselves were to provide the students with feedback at multiple times during the assignment. Peer feedback is not only an efficient way to deal with the high number of students, it is also a learning tool by the way it will be used in this course. Hence, it is a win-win situation.

Recommendations

Consult us! franshelis.garcia@wur.nlkirsten.verkooijen@wur.nl.

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