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Stimulating meaningful interactions at University of Koblenz and Landau

Dan Hasan
|
November 4, 2022
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Class Size
Instructor Workload
Learner Workload

Context

In this undergraduate class, “Language Criticism from a Linguistic Perspective”, trainee teachers carry out a number of exercises in-class and online, answer questions about study material, and give feedback to their peers on handed-in work. The students in this German-language course are largely 2nd-year undergraduates from a variety of backgrounds, and for many, especially the younger students, giving and receiving peer feedback comes with significant challenges. These range from unfamiliarity with phrasing constructive criticism, to lacking in confidence with evaluating or assessing own and peers’ work.

To support a better quality of peer feedback and encourage more interactions in the online parts of this course, FeedbackFruits Peer Review and Interactive Study Materials are used in weekly activities, integrated with the OLAT Learning Management System (LMS). These tools were chosen with the aim of streamlining the peer feedback process, enhacing interactivity with course materials in the hybrid setup, and reducing the amount of time and work spent on administrative tasks such as grading papers.

Constructive alignment

Learning objectives

Students develop a critical view on, and evaluate change in language use.

Learning activities

Activities throughout the course involved discussing and critically evaluating perspectives in language use from a didactic point of view. Learners answered weekly questions on study material inside FeedbackFruits, entered discussions based on these materials, and gave a final presentation on a related topic for their final assessment.

Use of FeedbackFruits solutions: 

Peer Review was used to facilitate peer feedback on weekly submissions, requiring students to individually answer questions set by the instructor. These questions refer to scientific texts that students read. Each student was required to review the work of two peers, and write at least one comment each on “what was good” and “what could be improved”. Feedback was then addressed in the following class with all students together.


Interactive Document and Interactive Video were used to give students a means of raising queries or posing questions with the study material. The instructor also used these tools to deepen students’ shared understanding of content. Concepts or topics mentioned in philosophical texts or educational videos, for instance, could be embedded with questions such as “what concept is being talked about?”. Students answering these questions or posing their own could then benefit from seeing each other’s thinking and co-construct their understanding. This also afforded the instructor insight into which topics could then be skipped or covered in more depth in subsequent classes and activities.

Learning activities in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy were at the levels of:

  • Analyzing: 
    ideas, perspectives, and changes in language use
  • Evaluating: 
    texts, videos, and peers’ work according to given criteria

Assessment of learning outcomes

Activities completed in FeedbackFruits tools were not graded inside the platform and there was no participation grade for the completion of these activities. Rather, feedback shared within these formative activities was addressed in class.

Notable outcomes

For the instructors: 

Lack of student preparedness for class is often reported as a frustration by some faculty. Using FeedbackFruits however, the instructor noted, “I never have this problem, because with [Peer Review] I can just check”.

Being able to follow students queries and questions inside Interactive Study Materials required the instructor to follow students learning more closely so as not to repeat content and instead build on it. “You have to really take the flipped classroom aspect seriously”.

Integrating the tools within the existing LMS (OLAT) was noted as being a crucial factor in the usability of the tools. A streamlined and cohevise on-site and online learning experience is essential to the quality of hybrid courses.

For the students: 

The interactive nature of online activities incentivised students to participate both with assignments and in-class: “Using FeedbackFruits really helped engagement - most people came to class even if it was just to see whether they were right”.

Interactive Study Materials also stimulated conversations between students within study material, helping them take learning into their own hands, and increasing self-regulation and autonomy. Students reported enjoying the interactivity of the tools.

"It really helped engagement. Students liked the interactivity of the tools... and that made the course so much better." – Andreas Osterroth - University of Koblenz and Landau

The role of the instructor

The instructor used announcements on the landing page of the LMS to remind students about the expectations and deadlines for FeedbackFruits activities. “That’s super important, by the way, being extremely transparent so they know what they’re getting into”.

Added value of technology

The instructor highlighted the need for a rigorous peer feedback process as important for the overall university experience, “A peer review system is scientific, it’s very adult, it’s very open. This is how you get closer to truth and start to put answers to questions”. Encouraging students to take charge of their learning in this way facilitates lifelong learning and the acquisition of 21st Century skills such as collaboration and teamwork.

For a student cohort not experienced with processing peer feedback, guidance and clarity are crucial. This can take the form of setting clear instructions and providing resources as an instructor, but it can also benefit greatly from appropriate technological support. 
Where reviewees can be automatically allocated; feedback can be standardised alongside set rubrics or criteria; comments can be flagged or reported; and potential grades can be delivered, all within one platform, the time savings and reduced workload scale alongside class size. Especially with larger student cohorts, or when implementing peer feedback across multiple courses, automating the more repetitive and administrative parts of course design returns time to the instructor. “That made the class much better, because then I can go further into the discussion."

Possible variation

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