Giving and receiving peer feedback is a powerful learning tool. It enhances student engagement and performance, but only if done correctly.
Feedback needs to be specific, organized, and actionable to work. Students need the skills to fully understand, analyze, and critique their peers’ work. The problem is that students aren’t teachers, so they don’t have years of experience leaving in-depth, qualitative feedback. A simple “good job” comment doesn’t lead to deeper learning for either the reviewer or the student who submitted the work.
Feedback rubrics encourage better peer feedback by guiding students through the evaluation process. They act as the training wheels that keep students on track as they review their classmate’s work. As a result, both students benefit: the reviewer engages more deeply with the work, and the reviewee gets a more constructive critique of their work.
We’re so passionate about peer reviews that we’ve put together a 60-page guide to building a feedback rubric. We’re sharing some of the highlights below, and you can download our ebook for an even more in-depth look at feedback rubrics.
What Is a Peer Feedback Rubric?
A peer feedback rubric is an assessment tool that students use to give their peers more comprehensive and constructive feedback on assignments. It consists of a series of open-ended questions that students answer as they review their peer’s work.
Feedback rubrics overlap somewhat with grading rubrics, sometimes called matrix rubrics, but they are not the same. Matrix rubrics help you evaluate an assignment based on where an assignment falls on a continuum:
Matrix rubrics are useful for grading an assignment but they aren’t as useful for promoting individualized learning. Peer feedback rubrics might include scale questions, but they also employ open-ended questions that students must answer as they review their classmate’s assignment.
Writing their own answers requires original, critical thought, and promotes deeper learning. Because students learn both from receiving feedback and through the act of giving it.
Here’s an example of a feedback rubric that incorporates different types of questions:
Rubrics are highly adaptable and can be used to facilitate feedback on almost any subject or assignment. Essay reviews are the most common, but your class could also use a rubric to peer review thesis statements before writing papers, to test code, or to review portfolios, videos or other artwork.
Best Practices for Using a Peer Feedback Rubric
Many students aren’t familiar with the concept of peer feedback rubrics or even a structured peer-review process. So before you send them off with a classmate’s work and a rubric in hand, give them some background.
Explain the purpose of feedback tools and the skills this exercise will help them develop. Consider including the class in the actual creation of the rubric. The more input they have, the better they will understand what top-notch work should look like.
Introduce the concept of constructive criticism. Many students need to learn how to give feedback that is helpful without being hurtful. Talk to them about the goals of peer feedback, and show them examples of kind, specific, and actionable comments.
Show them examples of great assignments and effective rubrics. If you have time, go through a mock assignment in class, and assess it together.
Provide anonymity. Anonymity is another key part of a good peer-review process. Anonymity eases anxiety and promotes honesty. Studies show that students write better feedback when they know their identity will remain hidden. Anonymity also eliminates any personal bias that might arise from preexisting student relationships.
Building Blocks of a Peer Feedback Rubric
Feedback rubrics consist of a series of questions that help students read, assess, and give feedback on their peers’ work. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for creating a rubric. Craft a series of questions that encourage students to assess the quality of the assignment and engage deeply with the content itself.
These three types of questions are the building blocks of a feedback rubric:
Yes/no questions are exactly what they sound like: a binary choice. The reviewer chooses between two options, with no other written follow-up.
Yes/no questions are used to help gauge whether basic guidelines are being met. Stack a series of yes/no questions to create a checklist of elements students must fulfill to complete the assignment.
- Does the video have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Yes/No
- Did the writer correctly cite two independent research papers? Yes/No
Scale questions ask students to evaluate their classmate’s work by ranking it on a set scale. It’s similar to a matrix rubric, but there are no numerical values involved, just levels of mastery.
Scale questions are useful for helping students understand expected learning outcomes from an assignment and for guiding them in their evaluation of the assignment’s quality.
Text questions are open-ended writing prompts that encourage reviewers to write long-form feedback about work they are reviewing.
While yes/no and scale questions help reviewers assess the quality of the assignment, text questions are essential for assessing the reviewer’s mastery over the material. Ask questions that encourage deeper analysis and complex criticism. Encourage reviewers to get specific in their answers by asking for examples, narrowing in on a specific element of the assignment, or encouraging reflection.
- What was the thesis statement of this essay? Was it persuasive, and, if not, how could it be strengthened?
- How would you attempt to refute the argument presented in this essay?
Prompts Should Benefit Reviewer and Reviewee
An effective peer-review experience benefits both the reviewer and the reviewee. The reviewer enhances their grasp of the course materials through thinking critically about the assignment. At the same time, the reviewee receives in-depth constructive criticism of their work.
To facilitate these dual benefits, your rubric should include questions that encourage the reviewer to both engage in higher-order thinking and leave good quality feedback for the reviewee.
Prompts for higher-order thinking
Thinking analytically about the assignment helps the reviewer deepen their knowledge and understanding of the material. These questions help them write a better review, but, more importantly, they help reviewers learn during the process.
Ask questions that encourage the following:
Critical thinking: Require students to justify their feedback with coherent arguments.
Example: Find a section of the text where the argument could be stronger. Explain why it’s not strong enough, and propose a stronger argument.
Self-reflection: Ask students to explicitly state what they have learned from the review process.
Example: What is something new you learned about this topic from reading this submission?
New perspectives: Highlight different perspectives to help students think about how their peers see the world.
Example: Imagine you are a film critic. What would be your review of this film?
Prompts for Effective Feedback
Effective feedback is kind, justified, specific, and constructive. Model this behavior both in class discussions around peer review and through the kind of questions you ask:
Kind. Encourage reviewers to avoid stinging criticism in favor of feedback that is both encouraging and useful.
Example: Name the aspect of your peer’s assignment that you feel is the strongest.
Justified. Have reviewers explain the thinking behind their judgments.
Example: Explain your evaluation using language from the rubric.
Specific and Constructive. Vague, general feedback isn’t useful. Ask questions that require the reviewer to call out specific textual examples.
Example: Find a paragraph in this essay that works well. Explain why.
Learn More About Feedback Rubrics with Our Free Guide
The success of your classroom’s peer-review process hinges on your student’s ability to give quality feedback. A well-developed peer feedback rubric will help reviewers leave responses that are more insightful, and more detailed.
Once the review is complete and students have had a chance to review their feedback, give the reviewee a chance to respond to that feedback. It makes students feel heard and helps the reviewer improve their work. You may even want to create a second rubric to help students give feedback on the feedback.
For more information on building great feedback rubrics, check out our free Guide to Creating Effective Feedback Rubrics. It has more tips and sample rubrics by academic subject, as well as information on converting a matrix rubric into a feedback rubric.
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