Facilitating peer-assessment opportunities
“They can give a lot more individually than I can 20 times over. And they get good at it too.”- Patti Dyjur
Educational Research 679 is a graduate level course that focuses on educational technology. Instructors can decide on the specific topics they want to cover in their section. Dr. Patti Dyjur taught a section, as part of a certificate in elearning, with a focus on creating and using digital content. The course outline for Dr. Dyjur’s section has more information about the class. Since her section of the course was completely online, the majority of her students were teaching professionally while taking it. Many were K-12 teachers, while others taught in higher education or in other industries. All of the students were capable, engaged learners, but all had different goals for the course. There were many projects and big assignments throughout the semester, and Dyjur wanted to ensure that students had many feedback opportunities. One method she used was peer critique.
Peer review was included as part of several projects during the course. Dr. Dyjur prepared her students to give and receive feedback professionally. Although the students were all professionals, some struggled to take feedback well. Dyjur reminded her students that the purpose of the feedback was to improve their projects and make them better for the learners who would use them.
The students were randomly paired up, and Dr. Dyjur made sure that the pairs were different for each assignment, since all of the students brought vastly perspectives to the feedback they gave. A feedback form, based on the assignment rubric, was used to guide the responses that students gave. They were asked to point out specific areas of strength and areas that needed improvement in the work they reviewed. Dyjur graded the students on the quality of the feedback they gave, as well as how they responded to the feedback they were given. Students had to read through the suggested improvements for their projects and reply to them, either saying they would make a change to that part of the project, or that the change was not appropriate for their specific work. They were not required to make all of the changes, but they had to provide a reason if they did not.
Dr. Dyjur says that students really enjoyed getting to see what other people were doing for their projects. In a course like this, where project topics and ideas varied so much, there was no risk of plagiarism. They did, however, find points of inspiration from one another’s projects. Both giving and receiving feedback helped students improve their work and think about the decisions they were making for their projects. The final products were of very high quality.
Although the EDER 679 class was quite small (typically ranging from 12-22 students), it required a lot of time and effort for Dyjur to constantly be giving feedback and advice on all of the projects and assessments. By implementing peer feedback, students were able to receive a much more in-depth response to their work then they would have got from just Dyjur. This practice alleviated some of the instructor fatigue that comes along with teaching learner-focused courses.
Peer review proved to be incredibly effective in Dr. Dyjur’s class. She recommends the practice, and suggests that a feedback form be used when trying it. The quality of student feedback was significantly greater when a form was used compared to times when she tried peer review without it. She says that making sure expectations are clear is the best way to elicit great feedback and create an overall positive experience for students.