Teaching Students to Provide Peer Feedback

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Teachers can help students effectively support one another via well-organized peer feedback systems. This lesson will help you teach students how to help one another!

Why Peer Feedback?

Ms. Loh is a seventh grade English and language arts teacher who especially enjoys helping her students with their writing. Over the last few years, Ms. Loh has moved away from providing intensive feedback on every draft herself. Instead, she teaches her students about peer feedback or strategies with which they can comment on and help improve one another's work. Ms. Loh encourages teachers in all subject areas to help students use peer feedback. Some of the advantages to a peer feedback system include:

  • Students gain expertise in critiquing another person's work.
  • Students learn to write and produce projects for an authentic and diverse audience, not just the teacher.
  • Students gain a sense of what their classmates are capable of and may be motivated to improve their own work as a result.
  • Peer feedback systems increase a sense of community around intellectual endeavors in the classroom.

Letting students give one another feedback is a great pedagogical strategy.

However, Ms. Loh understands that providing feedback to peers does not come naturally. Instead, she knows that she must dedicate time each year to teaching her students some of the hallmarks of supportive yet constructive feedback.

Accentuating the Positive

One of the keys Ms. Loh teaches her students is always to begin feedback by noting what is positive in another student's work. What's more, Ms. Loh does not allow her students to simply say generically that they like another child's writing, or that it is good. Rather, Ms. Loh instructs her students to find at least two specific ways to praise the child's writing. When students are first learning how to give good feedback, Ms. Loh helps them generate a list of attributes they may look for when complimenting writing. Perhaps they are looking at the writer's voice, grasp of mechanics, or unique perspective on a topic. Ms. Loh puts a chart with starter compliments at the front of her classroom, but as the year goes on, she finds that students rely on the chart less frequently. When her students wonder why they need to start with a compliment, Ms. Loh reminds them how good it feels to hear that something about their work stands out. She also explains that all people are better disposed to respond to criticism when it doesn't feel like it is the only feedback they are getting.

Providing Constructive Criticism

At the same time that positive commentary is so important, Ms. Loh knows that the purpose of feedback is also to provide advice that can really benefit the student and the piece of work. For this reason, she teaches her students that constructive criticism is criticism oriented toward helping the other student learn and to improve his or her work. Ms. Loh explains to her class that they should never simply insult another student's work. Rather, when they find something they dislike or disapprove of, they should take the time to think about what would improve this particular attribute. Not only is this the most productive way to provide criticism, but it also forces the student providing feedback to revisit his or her value system and knowledge in a potentially educational way.

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