The learning benefits of providing peer reviews

In this series of blog posts we will dive into the literature around peer review and peer feedback. Each post will summarize the main findings of a different academic paper, find all our research summaries here.

Technology-Enhanced Peer Review: Benefits and Implications of Providing Multiple Reviews. 2017

Authors: Pantelis M. Papadopoulos, Thomas D. Lagkas, and Stavros N. Demetriadis

The research question

The researchers main purpose is to investigate how different modes of peer feedback impact student performance and learning. The hope that their research can help improve how technology supports peer feedback. The two questions they used as a basis for their research are:

  1. Students that receive peer feedback comments will improve their revised work more than students that do not receive peer feedback comments.
  2. Students that receive peer feedback comments will have better conceptual domain knowledge than students that do not receive peer feedback.

Secondly, the researchers also look into how giving students free choice over which submission to give feedback to and how many reviews to give affect student results.

The research structure

The researchers used a group of 38 volunteer students, all of which were in their second year of study at the University level.  The students were using a web-based application for peer review and were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups. The Peer Review (PR) group gave feedback and also received their peer feedback. The Self Review (SR) group provided peer feedback, but did not receive peer feedback. Instead, the SR group performed a self-evaluation after giving peer feedback. The research study had 6 phases: Pre-test, Study, Review, Revise, Post-test, and Interview. Each phase was exactly the same for both groups except for the Revise phase which is when the PR group received peer feedback and the SR group performed the self-evaluation.

During the Revise phase students were allowed to select which submission they gave feedback and used a predetermined ‘microscript’ or rubric to guide their peer feedback responses. The microscript was the same for both peer reviews and self-evaluations.

The results 

The results of this study showed that for both of the research questions the PR group did not significantly out-perform the SR group. While their research did not confirm either of the researchers hypotheses, their research reveled that the process of giving feedback is likely more beneficial to students than receiving peer feedback itself. The process of giving feedback and then reflecting through structured self-evaluation can lead to students engaging in metacognition and reflection that leads to important revisions.

“…[R]eviews from peers may not be of substantial help when compared to the insights that students develop, when reviewing others’ work and are prompted explicitly to self review their work”

The researchers use of peer selected reviews led to interesting insights about the amount of peer reviews and type of submissions students chose. They found that stronger students tended to choose strong submissions to review while weaker students choose the same level or weaker work to review. However, weaker students will benefit when they review quality submissions.

[O]ur assumption is that students may benefit more when they spend their time reviewing good solutions. We maintain that the deeper insights and better grounded argumentation found in higher quality peer work underlines the discrepancy between strong and weak solutions, and supports the generation of such self-constructed deeper understanding that could trigger weak students to improve their work.

Students also tended to provide double the amount of peer reviews required. The researchers found that students found providing peer feedback beneficial to their own learning, exhibiting  metacognition. Students also commented that the short length of the submissions contributed to them providing more than the required amount of reviews. It should be noted that students volunteered to participate in this study and this could contribute to their positive view and enthusiasm in providing peer feedback.

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