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Peer feedback in writing: Problems and prospects

  • Many researchers have strongly recommended peer feedback as the crucial step in process writing approach. It refers to the ability of a learner to provide advice on the learning outcomes of peers from the aspects of the level, value, quantity, and quality (Topping, 1998). It can be explained as one of the learning activity based on constructivism. It has been shown from several studies that positive roles are played by peer feedback in teaching and learning. Peer feedback enables the students to get feedback from their peers (a more diverse audience) to bring multiple perspectives and to help student gain more confidence. This helps the students improve their writing skills, enhance their learning motivation, improve their critical thinking skills, stimulate students' interest in learning and serve them to acquire a lifelong learning skill.

    Problems of peer feedback

    Though there are many advantages of peer feedback, it also has some problems in a teaching environment. Firstly, students may lack confidence in whether they can provide specific and qualified feedback. Mostly, teachers are the only set of people to give feedback to students' homework. Once teachers make any form of a comment on students' homework, they can change the students' mind – this will make students doubt if they can substitute their teachers' feedback with their peers with specific and qualified feedback. Students' believe that teachers are superior to the students in the aspects of professional knowledge.

    Secondly, most of the students don’t trust peer feedback. Their teachers' authority is what they worship, and they rely on the teacher's commentary – this makes them skeptical about peers' ability to give feedback and thereby distrust their peers' feedback. This happens especially to peers they consider as lower competence students.

    Thirdly, Students believe that positive feedback is absent in peer feedback. This is one of the results of most researchers as they have considered feedback as error correction. This result also affects students profoundly. Most of the peer feedbacks are based only on the shortcomings and errors of companions' writings – this makes a comment full of correction and criticism and lack of encouragement. Comments of this nature affect peer's confidence and interest in learning, and it will also affect student's utilization of feedback from a peer. Solutions to these problems will increase the effectiveness of peer feedback as they all affect peer feedback.

    Improving the application of feedback

    One primary key to helping students build enough confidence in giving feedback is to put them through peer feedback training. Most researchers have discovered that providing students feedback training can improve the feedback quality, reduce the influence of subjective factors on peer review, and make the feedback more efficient. Students may feel that they are more confident to provide quality feedback for a company since they can provide more specific advice to their peers.

    There are four steps to ensure a peer feedback training: firstly, emphasize the function and significance of peer feedback to the students. They should know what peer feedback entails as it will enable them to receive comments from diverse way – with enough benefits to their learning. Secondly, you will have to provide feasible evaluation criterion. This will allow the student to understand how to comment a peer's writing, and it will make them have faith in their ability to give feedback to peers. There will improve the reliability of peer feedback when they are provided with evaluation criterion. The third step is to explain the evaluation criterion with the use of some examples and lastly, demonstrate to the students how to give peer feedback. Teachers can select students’ work as example randomly.

    References

    Cresswell, A. (2003) Self-monitoring in student writing: developing learner responsibility. ELT Journal 54 (3), 235-244

    Lee, I. (1998) Supporting greater autonomy in language teaching. ELT Journal 52 (4), 282-289

    Omelicheva,M. Y. (2005) Self and Peer Evaluation in Undergraduate Education: Structuring Conditions That Maximize Its Promises and Minimize the Perils. Journal of Political Science Education 1 (2), 191-205

    Topping, K. (1998) Peer assessment between students in college and universities. Review of Educational Research 68 (3), 249-276

    Stanley, J. (1992) Coaching Student Writers to Be Effective Peer Evaluators. Journal of Second Language Writing 1 (3), 217-233

    Freeman, M. (1995) Peer assessment by groups of group work. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 20, 289-300

    Min, H. T. (2005) Training students to become successful peer feedbackers. System 33 (2), 293-308

    Min, H. T. (2006) The effects of trained peer feedback on EFL students’ revision types and writing quality. Journal of Second Language Writing 15 (2), 118-141

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