Thursday, May 19, 2011

Virtual peer review

Michelle and I had our classes exchange annotated bibliographies for a cross-course peer review.  I've done these with two different classes that I teach, and its always a really great exercize.  In the past, I've found that students tend to be more forthcoming with feedback and take the work more seriously. 

From a pedogogical perspective, the exchange was a wise one.  Both classes were learning how to build annotated biblographies for research and both were focusing on topics related to food.  However, in practice, this exchange had challenges that kept it from being as productive as it might have been. I'm going to focus on these challenges and what lessons I've been able to take away from the experience.

1) Scheduling - There was some frisson from our imperfectly aligned schedules.  Michelle's students may have benefitted from peer editing my students' projects before starting their own, but my students had over a week between creating their annotated bibliographies and editing others.  On my end, this dragged the topic over 4 classes (assignment set-up; looking at the reviews others gave them; planning for a week-end assignment; reviewing the project).   This off-schedule also necessitated that my students perform much of the work unguided, "at home" and on unfamiliar schedules - a perfect storm for things to go wrong (emails don't arrive or go to the wrong address; students, used to only having work due before class, suddenly needed to do things by a Saturday evening schedule and forget, students who miss class don't know to do the homework).  In the future, I would try to structure the interaction so that students performed most of the work in class (so I could troubleshoot any number of personal, pedagogical or technological issues) and so that I could reassign editing jobs on the spot to ensure all of Michelle's students were covered. 

2) Different Platforms -  As Michelle notes below, there were some issues with her students (who are not used to Blogger) commenting on my students' pages.  Her students are in a facebook group. While mine are also in a facebook group, they would have to independantly join her class's group for the weekend - a process which seemed terribly unwise and ripe for things to go wrong.  We ended up working by email, but only approximately 50% of my students claimed to have received anything.  Which leads to ...

3) Accountability Issues - Its pretty hard to track independant work between classes or to ensure who-emailed-who or to cross-reference to accuracy of a student claiming to have not received an email from a student I don't know.  I had my students "forward" me their responses to Michelle's students, but a number forgot to do so.

I'd love to try this again with some tweaks to minimize the challenges and really let the strengths of this assignment shine through.

1 comment:

  1. Lizzie--I just wanted to mention that I am working on the accountability issues too--and have decided that going forward I am going to make the peer critique/exchange a part of their grade!