Peer Feedback in the Classroom: Empowering Students to be the Experts by Starr Sackstein

Part 2. Introducing Students to Feedback – 4. Teaching Students to Receive and Apply Feedback

  • The skills you need to teach are the ability to receive critical feedback and the ability to grow from it. It is often easier to receive critical feedback from peers than the teacher as students should be the target audience. Some students have an easier time than others with critical feedback, but always be sure to start with specific feedback in small increments. Every student is different so meet each where they are at. You need to be supportive and honest. False praise doesn’t help. Be sure to model feedback yourself as students will like to hear about how you have used it.
  • Listening is key to using feedback so be sure to teach active listening skills. Playing short podcasts while having students take notes can help. Model how you take notes and use repetition. Students need to practice listening, which they can do by watching videos outside of class. In addition to differentiating they way you teach about feedback, you will need to pay attention to how well each student uses it. As students develop their writing skills show them how to apply them in other courses. Also, have students find and post resources, make short tutorial videos, and take advantage of peer leaders.

5. Helping Students Understand the Feedback Process

  • Before the feedback process starts you need to teach the students how to develop and use success criteria. If they don’t know what a successful assignment looks like, they won’t be able to give good feedback. Start be holding one-on-one conferences to find out where each student is at. Giving them a survey prior to the conference will make things more efficient. Starr uses Google Forms for these surveys and offers a sample survey. Students can work in small groups to construct simple rubrics that show what an assignment needs to meet the standards.
  • Students can start by giving the teacher feedback and move on to give feedback to work provided by the teacher done by others. This will help the students figure out what they want to get out of feedback. Starr suggests that you have the class give feedback regarding an anonymous piece of work via Twitter. You can scaffold feedback with a form and Starr provides one that is used to give feedback for short videos. Once the real feedback starts it should not be anonymous so that students have to stand behind the feedback they give. Starr presents a Yes/And, Yes, Yes/But, and No rubric, which students can use to ask clarifying questions and spot unclear areas. Do not associate grading with feedback.

Part 3. The Nuts and Bolts of Peer Feedback – 6. Developing and Maintaining Expert Groups

  • Expert groups allow students to teach each other and learn collaboration skills. The idea stems from what has been known as the jigsaw strategy. Expert groups are larger in scope and become a permanent part of the class. About two months into the school year you will know enough about your students to start this process. Groups can contain between three to five students with complementary skills, and each group can contain a weaker student. Starr gives an example of tasks given to eight groups in her English 12 class.
  • As groups work you need to observe group chemistry and make adjustments as needed without micromanaging too much. Rather than assign tasks, let the groups figure out their own responsibilities within the group and have a chance to work out challenges and conflicts. Provide students with material they need and differentiate as needed. As groups work, circulate and take notes. Starr meets at lunch with groups that need extra help.
  • As for feedback, read all of it during the first two assignments. Have private conversations with students who aren’t contributing. Students who get feedback that isn’t helpful should let the teacher know. Encourage students to ask three other students for help prior to asking the teacher. Groups can be changed at the beginning of the next unit. It is important that students reflect on their work and Starr offers a number of questions to scaffold that process.
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