Building confidence in peer feedback
Utrecht University is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands and has distinguished itself by producing 12 Nobel Prize laureates. These days it is home to 7 faculties with 49 bachelor programs and 147 master programs. UU educates over thirty-thousand students in both Dutch and English degree programs.
Utrecht’s long history has not kept them in past, it’s rather the opposite. The university has been at the forefront of implementing new technologies and teaching methods. In 2014,UU started Educate-it. Educate-it is a university-wide program supported by and in support of teachers and students. It helps teachers enhance and future-proof their education. Besides assisting teachers to (re)design their courses by incorporating the teaching methods and ideas of blended learning, Educate-it also offers practical and technical support for IT tools that have proved their educational value. One of these tools is Peergrade.
The issue with peer feedback at UU was similar to issues at most institutions; trying to incorporate peer feedback with nervous and wary students. “This is usually based on bad prior experiences. When a peer feedback process isn’t guided properly there’s a big chance that students receive useless feedback.” Instead of offering effective critical feedback, students often default to easy and quick positive platitudes. This kind of quick feedback does not engage the feedback giver in any critical analysis of their peers work and often leaves the receiver feeling demotivated at the lack of care and thought that went into their feedback.
Embracing Peer Feedback
The turning point of using peer feedback came with implementing the rubric in Peergrade. Professors at UU were able to scaffold the peer feedback process for their students by giving them rubric questions that focused students on giving “useful, high quality” peer feedback.
The majority of the students indicated that they preferred giving peer feedback via Peergrade than personally during the seminar. In particular, the way in which the feedback questions were asked and the anonymity contributed to giving… Click To Tweet
Students were no longer taking the easy way out of offering positive but useless feedback. The professors at Utrecht took it one step further and often included giving feedback as a mandatory part of coursework, just like readings or assignments. Including giving feedback as part of the coursework ensures that every student is getting feedback and engaging with their classmates.
The final step that won over students and teachers was the ability to rate and flag all feedback that a student receives. “The possibility for students to rate and react on received feedback also improves the quality of the feedback, while the elaborate analytics and flagging options help the teacher to quickly identify key problems for further in class discussion.”
Peergrade helped turned skeptical students at Utrecht into active and confident feedback providers.”The majority of the students indicated that they preferred giving peer feedback via Peergrade than personally during the seminar. In particular, the way in which the feedback questions were asked and the anonymity contributed to giving critical feedback, but also critically assessing the feedback received.”