Article: “The Effects of Providing and Receiving Peer Feedback on Writing Performance and Learning of Secondary-School Students” by Yong Wu and Christian Schunn in American Educational Research Journal, June 2021 (Vol. 58, #3, pp. 492-526); the authors can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected].
In this American Educational Research Journal article, Yong Wu and Christian Schunn (University of Pittsburgh) describe their study of peer feedback in high-school AP English composition classes. Here’s the procedure they used:
- Students wrote an initial draft of a writing task and turned it in using an online platform.
- Students’ drafts were randomly distributed to peers across AP English classrooms.
- Each student was required to review four peers’ essays.
- Students used a detailed rubric adapted from the one used by AP scorers.
- Before scoring began, teachers trained students using two sample essays, as follows:
- Students read the first essay and were shown comments that were unhelpful (e.g., vague) and then comments that were specific and constructive, and discussed the difference.
- Teachers encouraged students to focus most of their attention on higher-level comments (e.g., quality of explanations and arguments) versus lower-level comments (e.g., spelling and grammar)
- Students read the second sample essay and worked with a partner to complete a review.
- The whole class discussed possible comments and what an appropriate rubric rating for the essay would be.
- Students then had one week to comment on and rate the four essays assigned to them.
- All students got their first drafts back with comments and ratings.
- Students made revisions and submitted their second drafts online.
- Students were then asked to write a second essay on a different prompt.
- Those were scored by the research team and compared to the initial draft of the first essay.
Based on a careful analysis of the students’ essays, Wu and Schunn concluded that: (a) with the first essay, there was a marked improvement from students’ first to second drafts; and (b) with the second essay (submitted after the first essay was written, revised, and submitted), the initial draft was significantly better than the initial draft of the first essay. In other words, getting and producing peer review not only improved an existing draft, but helped students be better writers going forward.
“Overall,” say the authors, “the results indicated that both providing and receiving feedback predicted performance and learning… By receiving and providing high-level feedback targeting similar problems, students develop a better understanding of their weaknesses and are motivated to review to narrow the gap between their current and desired performance.”
Interestingly, the process of critiquing their peers’ essays helped students notice and correct problems in their own writing that were not identified by those who reviewed their essays. This seemed to happen because putting on a “reviewer hat” helped students see their own writing through the eyes of a reader, as well as taking on the active role of a teacher.