Feedback is how students feel seen and supported. It is also how we communicate to our students that we value the process over the product. When we give feedback as students work, we signal that the work they are doing is important, and we care about their progress.
Teachers want to give students timely, focused, and actionable feedback, yet it is easy to neglect. Traditional approaches to providing feedback are time-consuming and often require hours of work beyond the school day. Given the bombastic pressure on teachers this year (and every year), I’ve been working on strategies to help support students in giving each other feedback. As a learning community, all members should play a role in providing thoughtful and substantive feedback.
Peer feedback is most effective when it is focused, and students have clear guidelines for giving feedback. Below are three strategies designed to make peer feedback meaningful.
Peer Feedback Choice Board
Choice is a powerful motivator. Giving students meaningful choices can help them to successfully complete tasks. So, why not use this format for peer editing? Building student agency into the peer feedback process removes barriers and encourages students to provide feedback through a specific lens. Based on what a student sees in the work they are reviewing, they may be drawn to one option on the choice board over another.
Teachers working with younger students or second language learners can create a choice board with sentence frames to provide students with additional support as they give each other focused feedback. For example, under the box labeled “Greatest Strength,” teachers could rework that as a series of fill-in-the-blank statements. The strongest part of this draft was ________. I thought _______ was done well. I really liked _____. Each option in the choice board could be composed of fill-in-the-blank statements that students complete. This approach to designing a choice board for peer feedback gives students agency and choice while providing the necessary scaffolding to make this activity accessible.
It is challenging to “see” our own mistakes, but another student can provide a set of fresh eyes when reviewing a draft. Before submitting a finished product, teachers can provide students with a checklist of items required in the work. These are often the same things that teachers outline in the initial description of the assignment, task, or project. For example, English teachers may have expectations around font size and type, spacing, indentation, quotes, and citations. As students move through the writing process, they may forget some of these requirements and benefit from a peer editor who can review their work to ensure it complies with the stated guidelines for the assignment.
When using a checklist to guide peer feedback, I recommend the following:
- Pair students strategically
- Articulate the value of peer feedback
- Review the expectations and format for peer feedback with the class
- Give students time in class to provide each other with peer feedback
- Limit the number of items on the checklist to avoid overwhelming students
- Encourage students to make notes on the checklist identifying gaps, missing elements, formatting errors, etc. but to avoid making notes on the other student’s work
The checklist approach is designed to help students clean up easy-to-correct mistakes before submitting their work. Instead of making any edits for the other person, the peer reviewer identifies areas where the student will need to spend time editing or developing their work.
Peer Review Using Rubrics
Rubrics are like roadmaps. They provide clarity about what students are working toward. I believe rubrics should be provided at the start of any assignment, task, or project that will be assessed using a rubric. That way, students can reference the rubric as they work.
If teachers create a standards-aligned rubric that includes descriptions for what the individual skills “look like” on a scale of 1 (beginning) to 4 (mastery), students can use a modified version of that rubric to give peer feedback in the form of an informal assessment. Teachers can add a column to their rubric that encourages students to provide a brief explanation for each score they give their partner.
This approach has the added benefit of helping students get familiar with the rubric that the teacher will use to assess their finished products. As they read the language on the rubric and evaluate their peer’s work, they may realize that aspects of their own work need development or revision.
These peer feedback strategies can be used individually or in combination to provide ongoing support at different stages in the process. Peer feedback aims to engage the learning community in the process of thinking about the work they are doing and supporting each other. These peer feedback activities position students at the center of the learning and require that they think critically about each other’s work. These peer feedback routines can also lighten the load for teachers because they are no longer the only source of high-quality feedback in the classroom.
Leaders looking to support teachers with self-paced online learning opportunities this summer can request a quote for my Getting Started with Blended and Online Learning and my Advancing with Blended and Online Learning courses!