Supportive Peer Feedback in the Digital Environment: Peer Review Design for Courses and the Workplace

Concurrent Session 5

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Design and implement a supportive peer review process in the digital environment for an online course or in your workplace.


Joni Tornwall is the Manager of Instructional Services in the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University. She assists faculty with the integration of technology into their online and face-to-face classrooms and facilitates online course design and development. She serves as a Master Reviewer and trainer for Quality Matters, and she has taught in the traditional an online environments for 10 years. She is pursuing a PhD in Educational Technology at Ohio State.

Extended Abstract

Measurable objectives:
1. Explore a framework for strong, supportive recommendations using five key elements of peer reviewer feedback.
2. Design an effective peer review infrastructure that motivates students toward excellence.
3. Describe how effective peer review contributes to building a culture of positive peer support in the classroom or the workplace.
4. Identify potential digital tools for implementation of a peer review processes for a course or work unit.

Session description for participants and program:

Peer review has long been a part of the workplace and is becoming a popular feedback and assessment strategy in the classroom. However, because peer review is sometimes not well designed or feedback is poorly delivered, the term "peer review" can provoke a sense of dread and avoidance for both the reviewee and the reviewer. There is actually tremendous potential for a powerfully positive experience in peer review, if it is well designed and the peer group receives training and understands the expectations. This is true in any peer review setting, including an online classroom, a face-to-face workplace, or a group of faculty working at a distance. The key is to build a culture of positive peer support among colleagues on a foundation of a solid peer review infrastructure.

As our academic and workplace experiences move to the online environment, the challenge to provide effective peer review and feedback becomes even more complex. Being called into the peer review process either as a reviewer or a reviewee may bring to mind criticism and punishment rather than support and reward. Delivering or receiving feedback in the online environment may produce additional worries about miscommunication and abuse of the digital cloak of anonymity.

What would need to happen to change that perception, to make you and your students or colleagues actually look forward to peer review and anticipate feedback from a peer? Is it possible to create a culture in which individuals welcome peer review, even look forward to it, as a chance to share observations, exchange insights, and learn from each other?

Instructors in online courses are turning more and more to peer review as a strategy to increase student interaction and provide timely and meaningful feedback on course assignments. The quality of student-to-student feedback can vary widely from excellent and supportive to meaningless or harsh. The instructor can ensure consistently supportive feedback by doing three key things: (1) prepare the groundwork by designing a peer review process with its fundamental elements, (2) prepare the students by presenting them with clear expectations and guidelines for feedback, (3) prepare a digital environment that facilitates flow of peer feedback from reviewers to reviewees.

In this workshop, we will explore the characteristics and elements of a well designed peer review process, work with five facets of supportive feedback, and discuss how one can use feedback, whether it is delivered well or not, to develop academically, professionally, and personally. We will also investigate several digital tools to implement your own peer review process, with a focus on iPeer, an open-source peer review application anyone can use at no cost. Participants who wish to explore iPeer and other digital peer review tools during the session will need to bring their own laptop.

In this workshop, you will:
ï Identify your discipline-specific goals for a peer review experience in your course or workplace
ï Compose strong, supportive recommendations using five key elements of peer reviewer feedback
ï Design an effective peer review process that motivates students and colleagues toward excellence
ï Develop assessment strategies to deal with challenges related to assessment of peer-reviewed assignments
ï Identify potential online tools for implementation of peer review processes (with a focus on iPeer, an open-source peer review application)

You will leave this session with the following electronic and/or paper resources:
ï An guide to the critical elements in a solid peer review infrastructure
ï A framework for providing supportive peer feedback you can share with your students and colleagues
ï A list of current learning technologies you can use to implement digitally based peer review
ï Examples of grading rubrics that integrate a peer review process into the assessment score

Session schedule:

Introduction (10 minutes):
ï Statement of objectives
ï Background and reasons for integrating peer review into course assignments
ï General reasons peer review should be a part of the academic and workplace experience

Supportive feedback exploration (20 minutes):
Two facilitatorsóa faculty member and an instructional designerówill describe the five characteristics of supportive feedback and explain how to apply them. Participants will then work in pairs to improve poor feedback examples and compose supportive feedback in writing and verbally.

Peer review Infrastructure design (20 minutes):
The facilitators will describe the design of an ideal peer review infrastructure. Participants will then break into groups of 3-5 and build a peer review infrastructure using building blocks (Legos, Tinker Toys, etc.). The objective of the building session is to include as many of the critical elements of ideal peer review as possible in a given scenario and provide a rationale for the choice to leave any elements out.

Peer review digital tool exploration (20 minutes):
The facilitators will demonstrate iPeer, an open-source peer review tool, and describe how students provide feedback and instructors view and use the feedback for assessment. They will also touch on other commonly available digital tools for peer review. Pros and cons of each tool, including FERPA considerations, will be covered briefly. The participants will then have an opportunity to get hands-on experience in iPeer or the system of their choice by entering information for a peer review assignment.

Conclusion and Q&A (10 minutes):
ï Examples from real workplaces
ï Summary of key principles
ï Helping students transfer feedback skills to the workplace
ï Q&A