Creating a Peer Feedback Activity for Subject Matter Experts
For learning to be effective, students need to do something with what has been taught. One way of letting them apply their learnings and checking their progress is peer feedback. Peer feedback involves learners in different roles. Besides being students, they also become co-teachers when they give feedback to peers. When students need to explain what they learned, we approach a deeper understanding of what they have been taught. It sounds good, right?
Unfortunately, a lot of things can go sideways with peer feedback that frustrates instructors and students.
Peer Feedback isn’t teaching. True. But it’s learning.
Many subject matter experts are reluctant to try peer feedback activities. But there are a few principles that instructional designers can use to set up peer feedback activities for them that help students understand the rationale for learning with this method. Here is what to watch out for:
Step 1: Instructors need to trust the process.
I’ve seen subject matter experts read every piece of text in peer feedback activities, scanning all submissions, all feedbacks, and all reactions. Why? Sometimes, they don’t trust their students, sometimes they don’t trust themselves. Do not proceed unless you’ve had this conversation and you know that they can trust the process.
Step 2: Control the frame, not the flows.
A peer feedback activity creates a framework that structures the students’ communication flows. Mapping the different phases and a showing a few examples help calibrate expectations. Let them assert their role as learners, especially when giving and receiving feedback, then let it flow.
Step 3: Tell students why they have agency in the process.
Instructors need to tell students that they are in the driver’s seat of their education. Improving the skills of giving and receiving feedback will help them at the workplace, many years after graduation. A peer feedback activity is an opportunity to hone their skills together in a safe environment.
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