After I recently attended a MOOC in which peer-review was very poor (reasons in short: wording in criteria was very strict so student assessed each other too bad and people repeatedly failed; students did not leave comments just grades, not enough students for peer review (!!- it was supposed to be a MOOC!)), I was wondering about the high and lows of peer review. Actually, I am convinced that it is one of the most valuable tools in online learning.

Why (for me) only online learning? Clare Gormely mentions it at the end of her blog post Peer Review – some lessons learned & some friendly advice – Learning Rush. Because it’s hard to assess friends. 

In the MOOC I attended, we ended up being a group of four grading each other. Of course we were all nice as it was a bit like a small community. So either you are a group of very open and constructive individuals, or out have to peer- review anonymously. This fact hinders the use of peer-review in many learning communities.

Still, peer-review is highly valuable, although there are some points to consider. Clare Gormely points them out:

  1. Some peer feedback comments were interpreted as being undiplomatic and irrelevant

  2. Providing what I thought were helpful ‘prompts’ for questions/comments ended up being regurgitated directly, in a small number of cases

  3. While some students loved it (particularly those working in similar disciplines), some participants were unconvinced (as they felt they did not receive the type or quality of feedback they would expect)

  4. Because students were free to discuss using any communication mode of their choice, several offline conversations were not visible to other students or me

  5. Some students did not engage at all with the process and some left significant elements out (eg did not explain what aspects of feedback they planned to incorporate or omit)

She also offers some suggestions how to overcome at least some of those hindrances:

  • Record a screencast or video that captures my thoughts ‘thinking out loud’ as I read and annotate a sample draft (this might help to model suggested feedback and tone, addressing points 1,2 and 3) 

    (I love that!)

  • Set up a central location (such as a discussion forum) with a designated thread for each pair to respond to online (this might assist with points 3 and 4 by increasing visibility into the process and enabling greater access to other classmates’ reviews)

  • Create an infographic that provides a recommended pathway for the assignment, from beginning to end (this might clarify the multiple steps involved, addressing point 5)

Read her full blog post at  Peer Review – some lessons learned & some friendly advice – Learning Rush.

Picture from Flickr