Encouraging Student Buy-In
Peer review has proven to increase student learning and improve student writing, in addition to being an important part of the academic writing process. However, providing a clear message to students about the benefits of peer feedback is necessary to realize all its benefits. We will look at three common student questions and discuss ways to help students see the value of peer review.
Student Question #1:
“How can my classmates who are also learning this subject be qualified to review my work?”
This question is best answered with a two-part response. First, let students know about the myriad of research that has shown that at least four student reviewers produce grades as valid and as reliable as an instructor’s grades (Cho et al.). If you spend some time in class discussing the review process and what you expect in an assignment, students should be clear about your expectations and the descriptors for each rating in each aspect of the rubric.
The second approach is to include some instructor or TA involvement in the grading process. Kaufman and Schunn found that students viewed peer review least positively when their grades were generated by peer reviews only and without any instructor grading (398). Therefore, if you are in a position to do so, include some instructor grading in the assignment and let students know what this grading will look like. For example, in a large-enrollment class if the instructor or a TA can “spot check” a handful of assignments and leave reviews, students will realize the instructor is not leaving the grading up to the students without any input or oversight. Additionally, since the instructor or a TA’s review is considered to be 100% accurate, their ratings will affect the accuracy review score of any other student who reviews that document and give the document writer additional feedback. In smaller classes, the teacher may choose to have a first draft be peer-graded only and the second draft teacher-graded only. By including some teacher grading in the course, students’ concern that their grades are entirely determined by their classmates should be reduced.
Student question #2:
“Why are there additional steps after I’ve submitted my document?”
Students often perceive writing as a one-draft activity and do not expect to reflect on their work after it has been turned in. Kaufman and Schunn found that before using peer review, “the majority of students who use SWoRD [Peerceptiv] will have doubts about its usefulness” (399). However, after going through the peer review process and making changes to the second draft based on feedback received from the first draft, students will realize that their writing is improving based on the feedback. Additionally, remind students that the reviewing process often improves one’s own writing as much as reading others’ feedback. In an interview that McGill professor Lawrence Chen gave on using Peerceptiv in his class, he reported that a student commented that the process, “Forced me to have a strong understanding of the theory from the class” (Ferris). Reviewing their peers’ work will help the students think more critically about the assignment and their own writing. Using Peerceptiv for multiple assignments or multiple drafts of one assignment will help students apply the feedback they have received to their writing and make improvements.
Student question #3:
“How can I give useful feedback?”
This is probably the most important way that you can spend your class time discussing how to use Peerceptiv. By spending a class talking about how to be a good reviewer and/or walking through a review together, your students will have a better idea of how to give feedback that is useful. Kaufman and Schunn report that, “the content of the feedback that students receive (or their perceptions about the content of that feedback) may be the most important factor in determining whether students think that peer assessment is fair after they have gone through the peer assessment process” (402). In other words, if students receive feedback that they value, they will have a better perception of peer review and the class.
You can increase the usefulness of the feedback by the commenting prompts that you include. If you want your students to focus on a specific aspect of the course or the writing process, tailor your comments to encourage this. Nilson suggests using descriptive prompts in peer review that ask students “to identify or to personally react to defined parts of the paper, speech, or project” (37). In Peerceptiv, that may be a commenting prompt that asks “Which idea(s) stood out to you as new or interesting? Which ideas were not clear?” rather than a more generic “Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the paper.”
Also, talk about what kind of comments would help students improve their writing. Discuss why a comment is helpful or unhelpful and how to be specific in their feedback. You may even want to provide an example of a writing from a previous semester that you can all comment on and rate in small groups or as a class. This starts the peer review process on a positive note and gives them ideas for their own writing and reviewing.
With a clear assignment, well-constructed rubric and time spent in class discussing how to be a good reviewer, your students will change their perception of peer review and become better critical thinkers and writers in the process!
- Focus your commenting prompts to encourage the type of feedback that you want your students to give and receive.
- The more time that you can spend on talking about what it means to be a good reviewer and thinking about how a sample document would be reviewed, the better reviewers students will become, and they will feel like they are getting more useful feedback.
Note: This blog post is focused on peer review of writing assignments. However, we have seen Peerceptiv used constructively for any kind of task or project that involves higher order thinking skills, including podcasts, presentations, debates, and group projects. Students can upload documents of any file type or submit a url for review.
Cho, K., Schunn, C. D., & Wilson, R. “Validity and reliability of scaffolded peer assessment of writing from instructor and student perspectives.” Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 98, no. 4, 2006, pp. 891–901. doi: 10.1037/0022-06184.108.40.2061
Ferris, Jennie. “Peer Assessment: Goals, Technology and Student Perspectives in a Large, First-year Course.” Teaching for Learning at McGill University, 19 July 2017, https://teachingblog.mcgill.ca/2017/07/19/peer-assessment-goals-technology-and-student-perspectives-in-a-large-first-year-course/.
Kaufman, J.H., and Schunn, C.D. “Students’ Perceptions about Peer Assessment for Writing: Their Origin and Impact on Revision Work.” Instructional Science, vol. 39, no. 3, 2011, pp. 387-406. doi: 10.1007/s11251-010-9133-6
Nilson, Linda B. “Improving Student Peer Feedback.” College Teaching, vol. 51, no. 1, 2003, pp. 34-38. doi: 10.1080/87567550309596408. Accessed 27 Sept. 2018.