Feedback: A tool for learning between peers

Nicolás Peña
24/05/17
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Aarhus, Denmark

Through Blackboard Learn tools, such as blogs, students at Aarhus University participate in a rewarding peer feedback exercise that has become a great complement to teaching and learning.

For Karen Louise Moller, a special consultant of the Faculty of Arts at Aarhus University in Denmark, the idea of generating peer feedback emerged after recognizing the need for students to have more opinions about their work, and learn from giving feedback to fellow students. In addition, students at Aarhus University asked for more feedback in a study environment survey completed in 2014. “We wondered what solution could arise that did not consume even more time, nor represent an additional burden for teachers,” she says.

What emerged as a complement to teacher revision, has ended up becoming the essential part of some classes. They found that providing a classmate’s to perspective to other students not only allows students to improve the documents they deliver in the subject, but it is also an opportunity to broaden the knowledge of the one who provides the feedback. “Some research shows that there is much that can be learned after reviewing, opening, and comparing your work with others’. Curiously enough, you learn more when giving feedback than when you receive it,” Moller adds.

How to feed back

• For the educational staff and the students at Aarhus University, it is very important that the feedback process is carried out with great clarity and knowledge of the students, so they can feel comfortable at all times and they can also contribute to others’ work in an appropriate way. That is why they turned to two different methodologies:

1. Anonymous feedback: Neither the one who makes the comments nor whom the revised text belongs to is known. But the teacher can see everything.

 

2. Open: The whole process is visible to all the class.

• These methodologies are involved in the classes of the institution as required by the teacher. They can be used for specific projects as an evaluation or even as lesson material.

• For Moller, there is a widespread acceptance of open feedback among Aarhus students. “However, when the members of the group don’t know each other very much or are just starting their program, the anonymous method may be better,” she says.

• In this case, through the web link on the platform, students access Dropbox folders in which texts are left, and Google forms to assign the corresponding revisions.

Open Tools

A student walks by the University of Aarhus at Aarhus, Denmark. Photo: AFP Andreas Hillergren.
A student walks by the University of Aarhus at Aarhus, Denmark. Photo: AFP Andreas Hillergren.

As for the ‘open’ feedback between peers, which is the most used in the University, Moller has found that it is also more interesting for students. “We know from research that when a student can choose a text freely, they usually give better feedback. For the teacher, it’s beneficial to understand who’s going to be in charge of reviewing each of the documents, “she adds.

In this second type of feedback:

♦ Teachers turn to the Blackboard Learn Blog tool that, although it was not created exclusively for the purpose, has the ideal characteristics to share comments and assessments in the same space, allowing the whole group to benefit from the possibility of reading them.

♦ This versatility of the tool also motivates students to give multiple feedback to others work. “The Blog tool is useful because it provides clarity about what everyone in the course is doing; if you receive feedback from many classmates, there are more possibilities to find information and comments that really help you improve your texts,” explains Moller.

♦ At the same time, she considers that being able to ask for and offer feedback is something that goes beyond the educational experience and is essential when entering the work environment. A valuable competence that is learned from practice.

Although much of Moller and her team’s work is to circulate the implementation of this type of feedback process with digital tools, thanks in large part to the Blog tool on the Blackboard Learn platform. She recognizes that it is a process that is barely beginning to spread among teachers. “We need more experimentation and more cases to share in this field.”

Already they begin, for example, to link the texts that are generated in the Blog, from Feedback, as discussion material within the same class. “This gives the students a previous preparation on the subject. We discovered that this way, they arrive with better foundations to the classroom,” concludes Moller. This process, in the hands of students and teachers, is evolving to become a crucial resource for Aarhus University classes.

 

*Karen Louise Moller – Special consultant of the Faculty of Arts at Aarhus University, Denmark.

*Photos by: AFP Andreas Hillergren

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