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Reflecting on peer-to-peer feedback

feedbackI was brainstorming with a teacher the other day about the age old question: how do we get students to give each other quality feedback of their work? Far too often I’ve seen students only dish the stock comments – good job, awesome, really cool, etc. When I taught writing it was difficult to coax anything much further than than those friendly, but not very helpful responses. After talking it over for a bit, we decided to try something new: peer review via screencast.

Now, we haven’t done this yet (so results are still pending), but the thinking behind this is:

  1. Technology has made it easier than ever before for students to create screencasts. I recommend either using the Snagit Chrome Extension and App combination (which saves the screencast directly to Google Drive) or Movenote if you’re just reviewing a Google Doc, Presentation, etc. Either way is a breeze.
  2. By having students “talk through” their comments, it forces them to dig a little deeper and more closely analyze an artifact.
  3. Screencasting seems a bit more casual than busting out the red pen – and when things are more casual, it’s possible you’ll draw out more honest feedback (this is debatable…but I think it will be the case).

We plan on introducing this by modeling the procedure to the class – in many ways, this form of peer review is similar to the think aloud reading strategy. Just read through and document (this time verbally) the thoughts and questions that pop into your head – perhaps this could be a good way of reviewing someone’s work. Or, we are considering a rubric which outlines certain criteria that must be analyzed through a peer review…this could work, but my fear is that this could turn a little robotic. And my hope is for peer review to be a bit more casual and honest…so maybe there’s some middle ground to be had.

Look, peer review is tough – I remember in a college history class I had to trade papers with the stranger next to me. By the end of her peer review of my essay, it looked like her red pen had vomited all over my paper. I didn’t take it well. But at least she was honest – and in the end I appreciated it (after drowning my tears in a bowl of Breyer’s ice cream…kidding). Could screencast peer reviews hit the happy medium of honesty and thoroughness? We are launching the screencast peer review process in a few weeks. To be continued.

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