Context & Scale
This pattern is useful in any unit where students work in groups or teams on either formative or summative assessment. The pattern supports CLaS principle 3 on authentic and relevant assessment and feedforward.
Peer assessment can assist students to develop evaluative judgment and a deeper appreciation of what good performance involves and how to describe it (Panadero, Broadbent, Boud & Lodge, 2019). The literature also draws heavily on concepts of feedback as a process in which students are proactive participants with a focus on sense-making and improvement (Winstone & Carless, 2019).
The implementation processes and challenges of peer-assessment in higher education programs have also received close attention, including recently by Adachi, Tai & Dawson (2018) and Wanner & Palmer (2018).
Giving detailed and personalised feedback is more challenging at scale. This pattern leverages peer learning to augment teacher feedback with peer evaluation. It also supports the management of group work activities at scale by mitigating group disputes and related administrative impact on teachers.
Within group work, students may be asked to evaluate and provide feedback on other students’ performances. This could be a formative exercise designed to improve group performance during the project, or a peer evaluation activity to assist with allocation of project grades across group members.
However, students often have different levels of experience and confidence with evaluating others’ performances and providing effective feedback, and so support needs to be provided to assist students to develop their feedback capabilities and literacy.
The solution is a process for scaffolded peer feedback on group work processes and performance using an online learning tool. Leveraging peer feedback helps engage students with the performance criteria and supports students to learn how to better develop and receive feedback more generally. The use of an appropriate enabling technology is integral to the success of this pattern at scale as it systematises the implementation and administration. It also allows teachers to monitor students during the period of providing feedback and provide targeted support as required.
Develop a group work assignment, including deciding if/how feedback will inform summative assessment marks.
Create criteria for successful group work to support the overall assignment learning outcomes. Generate a rubric with descriptions of what students can do/demonstrate at each grade level mapped to each criterion.
Select an online feedback tool. This pattern was tested using FeedbackFruits, however other peer assessment tools could be used providing they are user-friendly and easy to administer. We see a benefit in completing the feedback loop by designing in opportunities for students to reflect on/or respond to the feedback they receive.
Initiate a discussion with students early in the semester about the value of peer feedback for learning and the benefit of practicing giving and receiving feedback as a professional skill. Ideally provide additional supporting learning resources on the value of peer feedback.
Share criteria with students in advance of commencing group work and give them opportunities to ask questions. Create detailed instructions on the peer review process and communicate these to students. Alongside this, provide user documentation and technical support details for the online feedback tool.
Demonstrate the learning tool with students and give them an opportunity to familiarise themselves. Ideally students are exposed to the tool during a practice activity in class, well-ahead of using it for any summative assessment.
When running the peer feedback activity, monitor student activity and the quality of feedback being provided, and provide targeted support as needed.
Examples of pattern in use
SIEN5001 Foundation in Strategy, Innovation and Management
This pattern was iteratively developed. We acknowledge Leanne Cutcher and Paul Finn from the Strategy, Innovation and Management discipline.
You can read more about the broader context for this pattern in this blog post for Teaching@Sydney: Authentic online assessment: strategy, innovation and management.
This pattern was tested in a first-year postgraduate foundation unit SIEN5001 Foundation in Strategy, Innovation and Management. The unit had around 80 students enrolled with the majority studying online due to Covid-19.
Students worked in teams across the semester on an authentic group project where they applied an innovation framework to a case company to generate a set of strategic recommendations. At the end of semester, groups of students deliver their findings in a group presentation and report. Group members evaluated each others’ contributions using the online tool FeedbackFruits. Each group member was required to give both qualitative and quantitative feedback on all team members. Students were ranked against four criteria on team processes, along with two open text comments around areas of strength and areas needing improvement.
Through the peer evaluation, students had the opportunity to give and receive feedback to all team members against a set of criteria. The aim of the peer evaluation was to ensure accountability among group members, and to support students in building their capacity to give and receive constructive feedback, a key managerial skill. Five percent of students’ marks for the assignment were based on peer assessment from team members. Students were marked on a combination of factors: the average score from across the teammate’s ratings and how each student engaged with the feedback process (i.e. whether they gave the requisite amount of feedback and read received feedback).
Technology and resources
This pattern was evaluated via a student survey, student focus group and interview with the unit coordinator.
From the evaluation findings, we learned that students are sometimes uncomfortable with peer assessment, especially if they do not have experience with this kind of activity or come from a cultural background where expert knowledge is valued over peer learning principles. Some students felt uncomfortable giving negative feedback to one another, and unsure about how to discuss this feedback to develop solutions to process issues. We found that configuring and utilising an online tool so that students could respond to the feedback they received from their peers was helpful to create dialogue around improving their team-working abilities and seeing the feedback as constructive. Technical support was necessary to onboard staff and students with a new tool, however once capacity was built the system was greatly beneficial in reducing the admin load of implementing and managing peer feedback.
INFS5002 Foundation in Business Information Systems
The pattern was iteratively developed and implemented. We acknowledge the Unit Coordinator, Dr Sebastian Boell, and teaching team.
This pattern was tested in two semesters of a first-year postgraduate foundation unit INFS5002 Digital Business Foundations. The unit had around 80 students each semester with a mix of online and on-campus students.
This unit follows a project-based learning approach in which students work in groups to design a Business Information System for an industry partner.
To support students to improve their capacity for group work and team feedback, an assessment was introduced in which students engage in self- and peer-evaluation of the industry project group work and then reflect on the process of giving and receiving feedback. This assessment aligns with two Unit Learning Outcomes: “Effectively communicate and collaborate with different personalities, individually and in group settings, in complex digital work environments to achieve positive and sustainable change outcomes” and “Appraise and critically assess the use of digital technology in business, society and individual workplace contexts.”
The assessment was implemented in several parts. In week 3-4 students undertook a feedback practice activity in which they engaged with the concept of evaluative judgment and the criteria to be used in the peer-evaluation, and also practiced providing their teammates feedback using the enabling technology Feedback Fruits.
In Week 7 students completed a round of self- and peer-assessment with their project groups, evaluating and providing feedback to their teammates based on the performance criteria. The following week, the students wrote a reflective essay about what they had learnt from providing and receiving criteria-based feedback, and identifying group work improvement opportunities for both themselves and their group as a whole. Within the reflective essay, the students needed to anchor their reflection by linking it to excerpts of the feedback they provided to, and received from, their teammates.
Students further provided peer feedback to group members at the end of the semester after submitting their final group project assessments.
Technology and resources
The student survey indicated that students found the feedback practice activity was helpful.
A tutor noted that there was a large increase in the proportion of students who focused on teamwork in the final reflective assignment (which reflected on the unit as a whole), and praised the focus on developing students’ team feedback capabilities as a good response to the inevitable issues arising in student group work.