Supporting collaborative learning among remote students through peer review

Diana Laurillard talks through how to use peer review as a way to foster active, collaborative learning among students online

Diana Laurillard's avatar
University College London
16 Apr 2021
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Key Details

This video will cover:

00:43 An introduction to peer review

01:33 Benefits of peer review for learning

02:19 Practical guidance on how teachers can facilitate peer review among students


This is to talk through some of the ways we can now support international peer learning and collaboration, and make it work for students.

For international collaboration, we have the technologies now, but there are two key obstacles. Collaboration across time zones is difficult because it has to be organised. So the obvious solution is to use technologies that enable asynchronous collaboration, such as online forums and shared documents.

And collaboration across languages is even more difficult. But we do now have the technology of Google Translate, and that can do a lot for us.

Peer review is for students to collaborate on reviewing each other’s work, according to a rubric.

It could be run entirely online, using the VLE [virtual learning environment], where each student creates the first draft of an output, such as writing a summary of a text using the rubric, then reviews two other students’ drafts against the rubric, checks the two feedback reviews on their own output, and revises and submits their own output to the teacher.

So each student is doing a lot of active learning there, making it a rich learning experience. The teacher just gives the rubric and sets up the activity on the VLE, but also receives improved assignments to mark, which is good, and the students then receive teacher feedback as well to reflect on for their next assignment.

A recent study gives us an idea of what makes peer review such a valuable form of collaboration.

It develops students’ feedback literacy; they learn to appreciate the feedback process, to see that it can help, see the effect of using it. They learn to make judgements, to practise doing it, compare their own with that from others, and then reflect on that process.

They learn to manage affect, to avoid being defensive in the case of critical reviews, to ask for suggestions to improve, make it a habit to keep trying to improve and so on.

And they learn to take action, although the teacher here has to encourage them to practise taking action, to use feedback.

Peer review doesn’t come naturally and as we all know from receiving less-than-positive reviews, it can be difficult to handle. So from another recent study, here are the most important things teachers can do to encourage students to learn how to do reviews in a way that will make them really effective.

You scaffold the whole process, starting with simple quick tasks to get students used to the idea. Use a rubric they understand, encourage them to be constructive when they write their reviews, reduce their defensiveness by taking a positive view of the importance of having to improve.

You provide them with a model review so that they know exactly the kind of thing they’re aiming for. Talk through the benefits of using feedback, and finally provide them with your own feedback on their work, and maybe on a few examples.

To help teachers in all sectors in designing this kind of pedagogy for online learning, we developed the Learning Designer, a free online design tool. It provides a structure for developing a sequence of learning activities, which looks a bit like this. Or you can adapt an existing design, analyse what you create and then also share it with other teachers.

And on the website, you can browse designs which have already been contributed by other teachers to see if any might be useful to you. Well, let’s say I’m also interested in peer collaboration and I found a design called “A collaborative process for creative writing in a second language”. And looking at this, on this design screen, I can see it’s international, it’s part of an E20 group, and it includes a lot of peer collaboration.

So I could adapt it for my own topic, so I turn editing on, and now in edit mode I can edit everything. It’s my own design and I’ll put in my own description of what I want students to produce: a design or an essay outline or explanation of a concept.

So I’m creating my design using the original as a starting point. Now this one has all the elements you need for a good international collaboration activity.

It has international partners; it begins with individual work, then small-group collaboration and then class discussion, see what they’ve all done together, and then small groups to work on the draft of the final version, and so on.

And now, when you’ve edited all of this, and this detailed representation is now your design, you can output it as a Word document that faithfully records everything you’ve designed, which you can now share with students and colleagues.

So why not try it out. Just go to the link, register and experiment.

So, to summarise, international peer collaboration is feasible with the digital tools we now have. Collaborative learning through peer review is an extremely valuable way to learn, not just curriculum content but also this very important life skill.

International peer collaboration can work both within and between classrooms, wherever they are. And we now have the technology tools for teachers to share and develop these new ways of guiding students’ peer collaboration.

I hope you enjoy trying this out.


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