What can economics students learn from peer feedback?

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Morten Nyboe Tabor

Teaches Econometrics ll on University of Copenhagen

What can economics students learn from peer feedback?

Teaching the course on Econometrics II, Morten Nyboe Tabor wanted to find a way to increase his students’ engagement with the subject. Being interested in EdTech, he recognized the potential of Peergrade early on with the range of possibilities it offers for integration. Morten also saw that using peer feedback at his course would open up a whole new learning experience for economics students.

So how did Morten use Peergrade on his Econometrics II course? The course presents econometrics through five major themes, all of which are completed by handing in an assignment to Peergrade. This offers the students the possibility to learn from other approaches to solving exercises in, for example, time series regression analysis or unit root testing, to name a few. By giving and receiving feedback, students gain a better understanding of the subjects and use the knowledge to reflect on their own work and understanding. The course is completed by taking a final exam, which is based on the assignments, connecting the whole subject and giving students the chance to revise their papers based on what they have learned. (Read more about the course setup at the end of the article)

I believe Peergrade can be implemented on so many levels. You can use it as an extra element on top of what you are already doing or use it as we do.

Using peer feedback throughout the course has increased student engagement with Econometrics II: “Students are active in the process, and they understand why we are doing the different things”.  As a teacher, one of the major motivations for using Peergrade is exactly that – changing the way students approach the course. Making students understand how the topics are related, offering them the possibility to get more feedback and “just as important, inducing critical thinking about the work of others, because that is one of the things everyone talks about – we must educate critically thinking students”.  However, Morten also recognizes the peer feedback software as “a good example of the practical and the pedagogical coming together in a good way”. Not only is it a great pedagogic tool, Peergrade can also save time and money by cutting back time spent on assessing students; or in Morten’s case, it helped him quickly assess whether students qualified for the final exam.

And how have the students responded? According to Morten, “the vast majority are very positive”, recognizing the benefit of learning from other perspectives and offering their peers feedback. Using Peergrade is a great learning experience for Morten’s students, who previously received feedback only from their teachers. Students are building confidence in their knowledge and also learning how to offer constructive feedback to one another.

The students receive more and better feedback on their assignments. Additionally, they can learn a lot from reading and providing feedback on others’ assignments, and it becomes easier to self-assess how to improve the quality of their own assignments.

For anyone considering using Peergrade for their course, the experience from the Econometrics II course shows that even with a subject such as economics, using peer feedback is a rewarding experience for teachers and students alike. As a tip to all the new users of Peergrade, Morten Nyboe Tabor is keen to highlight the importance of creating good evaluation criteria: “Finding the right evaluation criteria is crucial. Based on Peergrade recommendations and our experiences, we make the criteria as specific as possible and focus on what can be improved in each part of an assignment.”

Morten’s course setup

During a 14 week period, students are presented with five major topics within time series econometrics, each of which ends with handing in a corresponding assignment in Peergrade. The format for each assignment is the same. The assignment is presented at the start of each topic and it motivates the teaching of the relevant statistical tools taught. Each of the assignments poses an open-ended problem, allowing the opportunity for multiple interpretations. To exemplify this, students at Morten’s course explore topics such as ‘What Determines Private Consumption in Denmark?’ or ‘Money Demands and Interest Rates’, to name a few.

Students are allowed to hand in their papers individually or in groups of up to three people, however, the page limit (five pages) remains the same regardless of the group size. The latter is to avoid giving an advantage to larger groups with allowing more pages, as well as giving everyone the same amount of pages to evaluate. After handing in the paper on Peergrade, the system opens up for peer feedback and then giving students the possibility to see and comment on their feedback (by flagging or liking) and space for self-reflection (what should be changed, for example).

At the end of the course, the students are asked to hand in 3 out of the 5 papers again – with the possibility to improve them based on the feedback they received from peers – together with their answer to a new and unknown theoretical assignment.

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