Peer review in high school science

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Tony Jones

Teaches Science at Taradale High School, New Zealand

Peer review in high school science

Peer review is a long held practice in the sciences to validate scientific claims put forth in academic papers. However, the peer review process doesn’t need to be reserved for those at the Ph.D. level, high school students are more than capable of participating in the peer review process. Tony Jones is a science and physics teacher in New Zealand that is helping shape future scientists by engaging his students in peer review. 

Scientific journals rely on peer review to double check scientific claims made by the authors before the article is published. The peer review process also allows for the peers to provide feedback on the article and gives the original authors an opportunity to make revisions. This article from Berkeley has a great explanation of peer review along with an infographic perfect for students. This process can easily be mimicked on Peergrade, offering students the chance to learn more about the scientific process and give each other instant feedback.

The research is clear on this – students benefit from rapid feedback and from giving feedback

Tony uses the peer review process in both his science and physics classes. “This tool provides a huge step towards the aim of students providing feedback in meaningful ways. Most of the time I am using the tool to help students progress down this path and develop the necessary skills.” He introduces the idea of peer review and peer grading in his 9th-grade science class with a basic lab report. In the assignment description, he tells the students that this is an opportunity to become familiar with the requirements of a lab report and also gets them comfortable with peer reviews. Below is an excerpt of the rubric that Tony uses for these beginning lab reports:

There are two levels of learning that are happening when using rubrics and peer review in this manner. The first level is quite basic, students are getting practice at understanding the basic components of a scientific report. Checking for a hypothesis and conclusion may become redundant but it becomes like muscle memory and soon including all the components will become standard practice for the students. The second level of learning is much deeper as students get the opportunity to see how their peers approached and solved the problem. They are exposed to different ways of learning and finally, when they give feedback they are synthesizing what they have learned.  In this way, Tony is ensuring that his students hit every level of Blooms Taxonomy, from remembering to creating.

Tony also uses Peergrade to check simple exercises like conversions which prepares students for the class ahead. He uploads the answers to the rubric in Peergrade and students then check the work of two other students. Using Peergrade in this manner, especially for a science class, can leave class time for more hands-on activities rather than checking over homework.

Advice for using Peergrade

Implementing a new tool or technology to the classroom can have its challenges, that’s why Tony has some advice for teachers new to Peergrade:

“Take the time to learn about all of its features. It can be complex – because what we are trying to achieve requires many facets and Peergrade has these – you just need to give yourself the time to familiarise yourself with them. Alternatively, it can be used on a more superficial level – still beneficial but doesn’t maximise all the benefits.”

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