Social Studies Teacher, Denver Center for International Studies
Teachers are encouraged to constantly create and innovate to keep their lessons engaging and relevant, but students do not always react positively to change. Jennifer Boyle, a Social Studies teacher at the Denver Center for International Studies, knows this all too well:
Anytime I try anything new with students there’s always this freak out, like “why are you making us do something new?”
Jennifer uses Peergrade with her Seniors in their Capstone class. In this class, students have to produce a thesis and defense of why they should graduate, putting together a portfolio of learning to demonstrate proficiency. This involves a huge amount of writing and reflection.
It’s really difficult for me to give constant feedback to all 30 students weekly so I thought we would try out Peergrade.
Jennifer recognized that her students were in a unique position to give each other very specific and insightful feedback, as they were all working on the same project at the same time.
Introduce the concept in class
Knowing that there might initially be some pushback, Jennifer set about introducing Peergrade very slowly and carefully, guiding her students through the process step-by-step. She started with a very simple assignment which they discussed together in class.
Involve students in creating the rubric
As part of this discussion, Jennifer spoke about what she would include in the assessment criteria/rubric for this assignment and opened up the floor for students to add their thoughts, giving suggestions for what they would like to receive feedback on. In this way, they were able to help create the type of feedback they really want, making it feel relevant for them.
Keep rubric to-the-point
Jennifer advises that teachers should keep the feedback rubric straightforward and not too long, so students don’t feel like they’re simply jumping through hoops when giving feedback. A short, purposeful rubric leads to feedback that feels relevant and valuable for students.
To make feedback even more relevant for each individual student, Jennifer suggests that students could include a section at the end of their assignment where they specify a particular type of feedback they would like. For example, at the end of an essay, a student could write “please give me some feedback on the structure of my argument”. In the corresponding assignment criteria, the teacher could include a question along the lines of “please address the specific feedback the student has asked for”.
Walk through the process together
The first time Jennifer’s students used Peergrade to give feedback on one another’s work, they completed the task together in class, while she was on hand to help with any questions or challenges. This meant that when students came to completing the task at home, they were more confident about the exercise.
After this thoughtful introduction, Jennifer’s students are now getting on board with the peer feedback process.
Jennifer will continue to use Peergrade with her seniors and is going to recommend it to her colleagues teaching 11th grade. A highlight for her is that Peergrade enables teachers to scaffold the feedback that students give, lending structure and guidance to the peer feedback process.
It’s an easy way for me to control the feedback a bit more, so it’s not just generic or not particularly helpful.
For any teachers looking to introduce peer feedback with Peergrade into their courses, there is a lot to be learned from Jennifer’s classroom. It’s likely that students will be skeptical when they are introduced to a new way of working, but taking the time to thoroughly explain the process, in the beginning, will definitely pay off in the end.