Overview: In this activity, students read each other's outlines on their final course paper and then met in small groups to give each other constructive feedback.
Course: H156 Research Schools
1) To provide students with feedback on their outlines
2) To give students the opportunity to peer teach and to see how other students are structuring their outlines and arguments
Introduction/Background: Research supports that peer-to-peer teaching can be a powerful learning technique for both the peer doing the teaching and the peer being taught. This activity capitalizes on the idea that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Additionally, giving students the opportunity to prepare and offer feedback on a peer's work helps to build their metacognitive skills.
Before Class: Divide the class into groups or pairs. Dr. Hinton created the groups based on similar themes within their reports. Have each student read their assigned peer's outline and come to class prepared to give feedback. Dr. Hinton assigned reading and preparing feedback as the reading assignment for the week. She also emailed an outline of the peer-to-peer feedback activity and requested the students familiarize themselves with it before class. You may consider using prompts to help guide the students' prepared feedback, such as: "what did the student do well, what did you find interesting or compelling, where would you like more information, etc." It may also be helpful to provide a way for each student to prepare a question or two about their outline on which they would like to receive feedback.
In-Class: The activity is designed to gradually ease into suggestions and formative feedback by first beginning with observing strengths of the outline and offering clarifying questions. See the attached document for the structure Dr. Hinton used in her class and for examples of possible feedback questions.
1) Have the students gather in their feedback groups or find their feedback peer. Have them chose who will be giving feedback first.
2) The student giving feedback first offers comments about some of the strengths of the outline.
3) The student giving feedback asks clarifying questions. These are questions that can be answered with one word or phrase. They are factual and brief. The student receiving feedback responds to the questions.
4) Students giving feedback ask probing questions. These are questions that help the author of the outline think deeper about his or her ideas. Good probing questions are open-ended and demand thought. If effective, the student receiving feedback should think about different perspectives and generate new ideas.
5) The student receiving feedback asks for specific feedback about anything he or she would like to discuss.
6) The students discuss together the implications the feedback has for the final paper.
7) The students switch roles and repeat the steps. It should take about 30 minutes per student.
Notes from the Submitting Instructor: Many students found this activity to be very helpful in the formulation of their final papers. The students benefitted from receiving feedback as well as from giving feedback. The giving of feedback provided the students the opportunity to think about their own paper and their own thought process by examining how a peer constructed his or her outline. The activity also provided a supportive environment for students to ask for advice on how to strengthen their papers. Additionally, the activity helped to strengthen the academic writing skills of many of the students in the course.
This activity was submitted by Dr. Christina Hinton, Instructor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and one of the creators of Research Schools International.