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July 1, 2009

eCoaching Tip 69

Using Peer Feedback to Increase Confidence and Community

The end of the summer term is rapidly approaching. This tip describes a way for you to gently revise your evaluation processes to include an element of peer feedback.  This process can help in the goal of reinforcing the core concepts of your course while also reducing stress and increasing community for everyone. By using even a modest amount of peer review, you can increase learning and reduce evaluation grading time for yourself.

Using Rubrics for Peer Feedback and Reinforcing Core Concepts    

This tip answers these three questions:

  1. What simple rubric can be used for peers to review peer work, such as reflection papers, presentations, or podcasts?
  2. What process works for a peer review?
  3. What does research say about peer review?

This tip assumes that you are familiar with rubrics as a tool to (1) guide student learning as they work on course assignments and to (2) evaluate those learning products.

What is a Rubric?  

Very briefly, as a reminder, a rubric is a scoring system. A rubric is usually expressed as a matrix with the 2-3 desired characteristics in the left most column and a three-point scale for each of those desired characteristics in the next set of three columns. See the rubric below for an example of such a matrix. More resources are in the reference section. You may find the resources in the Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking at the Washington State University website useful for customizing your own course rubrics when you are ready.

A Simple Rubric for Peer Assessment

Here is a simple rubric for evaluating a short reflection paper, podcast, or other assignment.  Including the rubric in the assignment directions is a good way to communicate your expectations. You might also provide examples of some model responses.


Simple Rubric for Peer Review of Reflection Paper, Presentation or Podcast


Desired Characteristics


One (1) Points


Two (2) Points


Three (3) Points

Clarity of Target Issue and

Perspective and Synthesis of Ideas

Identifies and discusses the issue, but the context is unclear and the conclusion does not lead to recommendations.

Clearly Identifies and discusses the issue within a particular context; concluding section lacks next steps or recommendations based on synthesis of issues.

Clearly identifies and discusses the issue and related issues within a particular context. The conclusion includes recommendations and likely impacts based on synthesis of issues.

Breadth of Perspective

Discusses the issue from only one perspective with little evidence or analysis.

Discusses the issue from two or more perspectives, with appropriate evidence and analysis.

Discusses the issue from two or more perspectives, providing evidence and analysis to support recommendations with possible innovative insights.

Professional Expression

Organization is confusing and the content may contain inaccuracies and not be on topic.

Organization is effective; content is accurate and accomplishes the task, but presentation is not inspiring or convincing.

Effective organization and professional expression with clear introduction, issue development and conclusion.  Presentation is convincing and persuasive.


Customizing Rubrics

This simple rubric focuses on three characteristics of written or oral expression. One of these characteristics is Professional Expression. This characteristic subsumes all the elements of effective and professional communication. This level of professional expression is expected of any and all learning products.

The other two characteristics selected for this rubric, clarity/synthesis and breadth of perspective, are from the set of eight intellectual standards discussed in an earlier tip this summer (Tip 67 - Developing Rigor in Our Questioning: Eight Intellectual Standards). A rubric based on all eight standards would overwhelm users.  This rubric helps to focus on just two intellectual standards, synthesizing of ideas for clear communication and looking at an issue from other people’s perspective and cultural experience.  Over time in a course, all eight intellectual standards can be reinforced.

Introducing Peer Review 

The last phase of a course is not the time generally to introduce a new process; however, students also like variety and if you keep a new process simple, it can work. 

Let’s assume that it is week 6 of an 8-week term and your students have a short reflection assignment. The assignment may be to reflect on the core concepts of a seminal journal article. The direction for the assignment might be to compare and contrast ways of building a talent pool for your organization. Part of your assignment included the rubric for this reflection paper as provided above.

Your initial evaluation plan was to have the students turn in their papers and you would grade them. If you decide to include peer review, you might use a variant of the following process: 

  • You divide your class into teams of three.  Make it simple, such as alphabetical groupings for this review.
  • Each team of three students “turn in” their paper to their two peers.
  • The students review and score the papers using the rubric within 72 hours or as agreed upon.
  • Students have an opportunity, another 72 hours or as agreed upon, to revise their papers before handing them into you.
  • Students hand in their revised papers as well as their reviews of their peer papers. Or without the peer reviews. This is an instructor choice. The likely result is that student confidence increases, their work is of higher quality, and both authors and reviewers learn from each other’s papers. 

You may have a question about the structure and rubric for a peer review.  For this first exercise you may choose to simply leave it open-ended with a focus on comments and feedback, and give credit as a satisfactory if the review is completed.  For future peer evaluation or for significant projects, you might choose to use a separate rubric for the peer evaluation.

Research on Peer Review:  A Few One-Liner Recommendations

What does the research say about peer review?  What are the potential dangers? What are some of the pearls of wisdom? Here are a few one-liner recommendations.

  • Be sure to provide an opportunity for revision after peer review. (Andrade, n.d.)
  • With peer-to-peer evaluations, learners think about good writing when they are writing their papers and when they are reviewing other’s papers  (Pare & Joordens, 2008)
  • Design projects with multiple review steps; design in self-assessment, peer-assessment and expert review (Moallem, 2005)
  • Peer evaluations are generally not statistically different from expert evaluations (Topping, 1998)
  • Peer interaction is most effective when orchestrated around a set of problems to be solved.  (Merrill & Gilbert, 2008)
  • Peer assessment processes can usually clarify assessment criteria (Chen & Tsai, 2009)

These one-liners are just the tip of the research iceberg on this topic. Write or call with your questions and suggestions for future tips on peer assessment and interaction.

Quick Review of Rubrics 

If you would like a quick review on rubrics in general, here are two resources:

References and Resources

Andrade, H. G. Understanding rubrics.  Retrieved June 24, 2009 from http://learnweb.harvard.edu/ALPS/thinking/docs/rubricar.htm.

Andrade, Heidi & Ying Du (2005). Student perspectives on rubric-referenced assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 10(3). Retrieved June 24, 2009 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=10&n=3.

Chen, Y. C. & Tsai, C. C.  (2009). An educational research course facilitated by online peer assessment. Innovations in Education and Teaching International.  46(1), 105–117.

E-Coaching Tip 27 (Fall, 2006): A Rubric for Analyzing Critical Thinking. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip27.html

E-Coaching Tip 04 (Spring, 2006):  Managing and Evaluating Discussion Postings. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tips/tip4.html

Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking. Washington State University, Fall 2006. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from http://wsuctprojectdev.wsu.edu/ctr_docs/CIT%20Rubric%202006.pdf

Comeaux, P. Assessing Students’ Online Learning: Strategies and resources.  Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the academy.  17 (3), 2005-5006. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from  http://thunder1.cudenver.edu/CFD/virtual_cfd/online_learning/assessing_online_learning.htm.

Paré, D. E. & Joordens, S. (2008). Peering into large lectures: examining peer and expert mark agreement using peerScholar, an online peer assessment tool.  Retrieved June 28, 2009 from http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~psya01/peerScholar/peerScholar%20paper%20-%20Pare%20and%20Joordens%20(2008).pdf

Moskal, Barbara M. (2000). Scoring rubrics: what, when and how?. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(3). Retrieved June 24, 2009 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=3

Moallem, M. (2005). Designing and managing student assessment in an online learning environment.  In P. Comeaux (Ed.), Assessing online learning, pp. 18 to 33. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Merrill, M. D., & Gilbert, C. G. (2008). Effective peer interaction in a problem-centered instructional strategy. Distance Education, 29(2), 199 - 207.

Topping, K. (1998), Peer assessment between students in colleges and universities. Review of Educational Research, 68, 249–276.

Using Peer Feedback to Increase Confidence and Community



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Revised May 20 2013
Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 1997-2013