It’s difficult for instructors to make time to provide individual feedback on every student’s work. Providing feedback for a class of 3,000 students? That seems utterly impossible — unless you harness the power of peer review.
BI Norwegian Business School is one of Europe’s largest business schools, with some classes topping 4,000 students. To give individual feedback to every student, they would need a small army of teaching assistants and massive human resources. So instead, they shifted to an automated peer review process. Each student is randomly assigned a piece of their peer’s work to review, and in turn, they receive personalized comments on their work
A peer review program, where students critique and assess one another’s assignments, ensures that every student receives nuanced, personalized feedback. It’s not just a timesaver for instructors, though — it’s a learning tool. Students stretch their critical thinking and analytical skills by writing nuanced feedback for their classmates.
Setting up a peer review program can quickly get complicated if you don’t have the right tools to automate the process. A peer review template can help you organize and standardize the peer review process to ensure that every student benefits from personalized feedback.
How to Set Up an Online Peer Review Program
You can run a peer review program in a class of 12 or 1,200 students, and the process is pretty much the same for both. Setting up a peer review program isn’t complicated, but it does take some prep work.
Here’s what you need to do.
Define Your Goals
The first step is to consider the purpose of peer review in the context of your particular course. What you hope to achieve will influence the assignments you choose for the course and how you frame the feedback process to students.
Some common goals for peer review programs:
- Provide personalized feedback for a large group of students. Use peer feedback to make sure every student in a large class benefits from unique and specific criticism.
- Use the act of giving feedback as a learning tool. Encourage students to improve their critical thinking and assessment skills via analysis of their classmate’s work. To do this, you’ll need to create a robust feedback rubric to guide the review process.
- Help students improve their skills through peer feedback. Students can use constructive criticism on their writing, speaking, or artistic skills to hone their craft. You may even consider multiple rounds of peer review to help them iterate better work.
- Boost class engagement and participation. BI Norwegian used the peer review process as a mechanism for boosting student engagement. The individualized review makes students feel less like a number and more like a valued part of the learning community.
There’s one important caveat to know when considering a peer review program: Peer review should only be used as a grading tool with oversight. To make it work, you’ll need to train students to do it well and use a trustworthy rubric. The peer reviews may influence the final grade, but the instructor must take responsibility for the grade itself. You should be prepared to defend each student’s grade if challenged.
Pair With an Appropriate Assignment
Most, but not all assignments work well for peer review. Peer review is inherently subjective, so choose a project that will benefit from opinionated feedback. Students can critique writing, style choices, and abilities, but they aren’t fact-checkers or assignment graders. Pick an assignment that leaves room for some nuance or creativity.
Essays are the most common peer review subject, as students can critique their peers’ logic, arguments, and writing skills. But essays aren’t the only option. It’s possible to set up peer reviews for art portfolios, speeches or performance recordings, multimedia projects, and many more.
Create a Feedback Rubric
Feedback rubrics are a tool that students can use to assess their peers’ work. It’s vital that you create an appropriate rubric to guide the review process and ensure relevant feedback.
You want to create a rubric that encourages detailed and specific feedback, so choose open-ended questions and promote higher-order thinking: analysis, evaluation, and synthesis. Incorporate various question types, including short essays, yes/no questions, or decision matrixes.
For extensive information on how to craft an amazing rubric, check out our guide to feedback rubrics.
A successful review program requires student buy-in. Before you start handing out assignments, spend some time introducing your students to the peer review process.
Make sure that students understand the point of peer review. Reference your goals from above. Students must know why you’re doing these exercises and how it benefits them, both as reviewers and reviewees.
Set expectations with your students upfront. Emphasize the importance of giving good-quality feedback, and discuss the idea of constructive criticism. Walk them through your feedback rubric so they understand precisely how to use it. You can even show them examples of appropriate feedback.
Finally, set expectations or deadlines for both the initial assignment submission and feedback. Set contingency plans. If the students can’t access the review site, who do they ask for help? Make sure they know who to turn to if they have technical issues.
Our 3-Step Peer Review Template
The actual peer review process is relatively simple. We break it down into three stages: submit work, review peer’s work, reflect on feedback. The complicated part is what happens on the backend: anonymously, randomly or controlled assigning and tracking reviews. Eduflow can help you quickly organize these logistics.
Use our handy peer review template to create a slick front-end experience and easily guide students through the process.
Here’s what the feedback process looks like in practice:
1. Submit Work
Students complete their assignments and submit them for review by uploading them to Eduflow.
On the back end, instructors can set the file types, prerequisites, due dates and keep track of student submissions.
2. Review Peer’s Work
Eduflow then randomly assigns each participant an assignment for review. The assignments are anonymized, so students don’t know whose work they’re reviewing or who is reviewing their work. That anonymity is essential for giving students the psychological safety to provide candid feedback.
Students enter their feedback directly on the site using a feedback rubric.
The template features a standard rubric, but we recommend you customize the feedback rubric it to fit your assignment. Download our feedback ebook for more examples.
3. Reflect on Feedback
After students receive their peer’s feedback, they then have a chance to respond to and reflect on it.
Providing feedback is a key part of the learning process, and the peer feedback system relies on every student giving quality, constructive criticism. This step is a chance for the student to assess their peer’s review capabilities and reflect on the feedback they’ve been given.
Eduflow Simplifies the Peer Review Process
The benefits of peer review extend far beyond the quality of the student’s feedback. When BI Norwegian Business School instituted their peer review process, they saw an immediate uptick in student engagement and excitement for their courses. When everyone in the classroom can give and receive specific feedback, it improves performance, commitment, and overall student satisfaction.
Keep the focus on the quality of students’ work and the nature of their reviews — not on the logistics of the peer review process. Use Eduflow’s simple template and easy-to-use software to organize and facilitate peer review. Your students, and your workload, will thank you for it.