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Normalising effective peer feedback in hybrid courses at TU Dublin

Dan Hasan
|
February 9, 2023
DOMAIN
Social Sciences
Class Size
30 - 130
Instructor Workload
Learner Workload
ABOUT THE INSTITUTION

Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) is Ireland's first tech university and ranked by Times Higher Education as one of the Top Young Universities Worldwide. It is currently investing EUR500m in technology-enabled facilities to enhance the student experience.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR(S)

Denise Martin is a lecturer at TU Dublin who has been teaching at the university since 2010. She has been involved in sports analysis for some time and contributed to several papers in the field. She earned her PhD in Sports Performance Analysis in 2022.

Jennifer Cowman started teaching at TU Dublin in 2014 after completing her PhD in Industrial Relations in Healthcare. She is a proponent of game based learning, and the use of feedback in the learning process. These approaches are core to her teaching practice.

ABOUT THE INSTITUTION

Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) is Ireland's first tech university and ranked by Times Higher Education as one of the Top Young Universities Worldwide. It is currently investing EUR500m in technology-enabled facilities to enhance the student experience.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR(S)

Denise Martin is a lecturer at TU Dublin who has been teaching at the university since 2010. She has been involved in sports analysis for some time and contributed to several papers in the field. She earned her PhD in Sports Performance Analysis in 2022.

Jennifer Cowman started teaching at TU Dublin in 2014 after completing her PhD in Industrial Relations in Healthcare. She is a proponent of game based learning, and the use of feedback in the learning process. These approaches are core to her teaching practice.

Context

Across several hybrid courses at TU Dublin, instructors used Peer Review to streamline and optimise peer feedback, resulting in student submissions of a higher level of quality.

Constructive alignment

Challenges

Dr. Martin and Dr. Cowman both realised the essential role feedback plays in the learning process, with it being part of their course designs for a long time. However, the transition to online amplified existing challenges and brought new issues which limited the effectiveness and feasibility of these feedback activities. 

Whether using traditional pen-and-paper feedback processing, or the native discussion boards inside VLE's such as Canvas and Moodle, many educators struggle with the time investment, lack of pedagogical flexibility, and technical rigidity of these systems. As Dr. Cowman puts it, “sometimes in higher ed, we focus too much on the end outcome rather than the process itself.” The result is that students don’t receive or perceive the full benefits of feedback, despite this being an essential skill in the working world.

"The number one reason why new hires fail in the workplace is a lack of coachability (see Leadership IQ Survey). It's never a problem that someone makes a mistake in the workplace.  The problem  arises when they can’t take feedback on board and correct or amend their performance. I actually think it's a muscle that we need to develop” - Dr. Jennifer Cowman

In her Leading in Modern Enterprises course, Dr. Cowman used “double submission” assessment to give students a chance to submit a draft written assignment and receive feedback on it before submitting a final version later. For this assessment, 35% of the grade for the paper was based on how students responded to this feedback. Running parallel to this process, Dr. Cowman uses a peer review.  Previously, paper feedback forms were used. With an eye to sustainability, as well wanting to centralise and streamline feedback, Dr. Cowman opted to switch to FeedbackFruits Peer Review.

Dr. Martin also allowed her Sports Analysis students to submit a draft “analysis dashboard”, processing feedback between each other's submissions as well as receiving feedback from the instructor. Students had a chance to act on this feedback and produce an improved version for their final submission. Previously, these assignment submissions took place on Moodle's discussion forum, with students uploading their files inside threads where the instructor would provide feedback. As this proved clunky and often resulted in technical issues with students, Dr. Martin also started using FeedbackFruits Peer Review.

Assessment of learning outcomes

Solutions

Making use of Peer Review inside of the Moodle VLE, both instructors set up activities to require submitting work and processing feedback within the tool. As well as receiving feedback from peers, students also received feedback from the instructors, both within the tool and in follow-up sessions. For Dr. Cowman’s students, Automated Feedback was included as a module inside the Peer Review activity, to allow work to be checked for grammatical and formatting issues before handing it over to their peers for an anonymous review. As some of these peer reviews took place in-class, it was essential that students could access the activity from both laptop and mobile.

“The fact that the platform is mobile compatible made a massive difference. It meant that for this particular activity I could be a little bit more sustainable , but also that the quality of the peer review, in my view, was enhanced. The system encourages students to leave a more detailed review" - Dr. Jennifer Cowman

Setting up a clear and comprehensive rubric helps students better understand what is expected of them, increasing the quality of their submissions. Instead of using a linear score, Dr. Cowman’s rubric required students to leave comments within Peer Review for each subsection of the 3 criteria (for a total of 10 comments). Overall, the following structure of both instructors’ peer feedback setups was as follows:

Step 1: Communicate assignment instructions, including submission and review deadlines

Peer Review feedback rating and deadline
Peer Review deadline settings

Step 2: Set up tool options in Peer Review, e.g., anonymity, rubrics, modules, allocations, etc.

Peer Review settings
Peer Review settings

Step 3: (optional) Students check their work with Automated Feedback

Automated Feedback setup
Automated Feedback setup

Step 4: Students deliver work and give feedback to peers following rubric

Rubric presentation
Rubric criteria: Presentation

Rubric structure
Rubric criteria: Structure

Rubric research
Rubric criteria: Research

Step 5: Instructor checks reviews, optionally leaves comments, and publishes grades

After completing the Peer Review activity on each other’s work, students continued to iterate on their submissions before a final hand-in near the end of the unit. 35% of the grade of the final paper was based on students’ response to (instructor) feedback in Dr. Cowman’s class - a significant portion which emphasised the importance of learning and coachability.

Notable outcomes

Outcomes

Students who completed the feedback exercises and gave thoughtful, detailed comments on each other’s work, performed better. In Dr. Martin’s class, this improvement was sometimes the difference between a pass or fail, "Many students actually failed the assignment. The people who did [Peer Review] passed. The penny has dropped that this is a really attractive process. And that you need feedback.” 

As well as leading to an improved performance, students found the process straightforward, and the instructors found no trouble in setting up the activities. According to Dr. Martin, "I feel really that this does work, that it’s very easy to set up. The students are able to engage with it, you see that they find it easy enough to get in there and leave a comment for each other." 

With the time saved, and deeper feedback between students as a result of using Peer Review to support the feedback process, both instructors were positive about using FeedbackFruits tools and convincing their fellow faculty to do the same. As Dr. Cowman put it, "just the fact that I didn't have to stand at a photocopier saves me time… and, if you have activities that are mobile compatible, it means that you can create an interactive, engaging experience in a large group lecture. Sustainability is also a key focus in TU Dublin so this is a win on a few fronts.” 

"I would absolutely [recommend FeedbackFruits]. I think it's very efficient in terms of being able to give feedback effectively - the peer feedback is really valuable. It's all in one place as well; you're able to hold on to it… So I will use this again." - Dr. Denise Martin

To find out more about how Peer Review can enrich peer feedback in your classes, check out our Peer Review tool page, or take a look at our other tools down below.

Possible variation

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Recommended use cases

Leiden University utilizes FeedbackFruits Competency-Based Assessment solution to track competencies of students

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Texas A&M University School of Public Health decided on a campus-wide adoption of the FeedbackFruits tool suite to enhance student engagement and implement authentic assessment.

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