Creating a Classroom Environment Molded by Students: Peer Feedback/Assessment

Jack is a student at Riverside High School (9th grade). He plays football and baseball, and enjoys learning and writing. Jack strives to help create the most productive environment for students to collaborate and connect. As a #BowTieBoy, he works to help mold the perfect classroom with the help of student voice and teacher guidance.

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Peer feedback/assessment is underutilized in the current day and age of school. Giving students the responsibility to give each other feedback and constructive criticism builds a strong bond in the classroom and empowers students to make each other better with the knowledge of each individual. Too often students are worried that the work they created is either right or wrong. Peer feedback enables students to use and trust the learning process without only focusing on the end result. If a student puts all the effort into the process the end result will come, as opposed to only focusing on the end result, which would eliminate the whole point of the learning process.

When students are empowered to give feedback to their peers and make each other better with their individual knowledge, it creates trust within the class.

“A teacher that achieves a relationship with his/her students has the opportunity to influence their thinking.”

Response & Analysis, 2004

A common area of school where peer feedback is given is with essays. While this may seem pointless or as if the teachers are being too lazy to grade the students essays themselves, it has the potential to be very beneficial. When grading each other’s writing, students commonly just grade the rough draft, then hand back the paper with their edits and the student changes things, then turns in the paper. I believe that if students were to have a say in the grade of their peer, the peer feedback would be taken more seriously. If the students were to have a say in each other’s final essays, the teacher could take that grade into consideration while grading and use the student notes and edits to grade the paper. This eliminates students pairing up with their friends to get a “perfect essay” due to the fact that the teacher would still be grading the paper themselves, just using the peer edits and grade to help bring them to a final score. Doing this allows the students to feel confident in their work throughout the whole writing process, instead of worrying about the grade they will get.

Understanding that learning comes in a process is difficult for students due to the grade they receive meaning more than their learning. Incorporating the peer feedback strategy will help students value the process without even realizing it. When planning an essay, it is important that the students collaborate with ideas and concepts. This will help them evaluate each other constructively to create an idea that they can back up and have confidence writing about. The students can help each other by asking questions about the writer’s topic to help the writer decide if that is genuinely what they want to write about.

It is important that the students are not restricted by rubrics so they can have the most effective writing. It is acceptable to have standards when grading an essay, but not to have standards that make each student’s writing look identical and sound robotic due to the rubric. The students should be getting in groups of two and helping each other. The feedback received from the editors should be constructive criticism in order for students to trust the peer feedback. The students should want to be able to share their work, and building it by using each other will only help the students reach that point.

Students should then take in consideration the recommended changes and re-model their essay if they feel it is needed. Then the editor should read over the essay and give it the grade they think it should be along with reasons why they chose that grade. This allows the students to be not only more independent, but also learn to give advice, take advice, and collaborate, which are all major attributes needed in life.

“Listening is easier for some students.” 

Adolescent Literacy, 2007

Students will then feel comfortable with the process and become more focused on their essay in each stage, instead of only the final essay.

While this may seem irrelevant due to the fact that the teacher still has say over the final grade, it shows the teacher that the students put in the effort needed to establish an essay on a topic that interests them. Peer feedback not only creates trust within a classroom, but it also prepares students for the real world with collaboration and communication with peers. This will also help students learn to trust the process and not only pay attention to the end result. This is because in each stage the student has to focus only on the current part they are in. Students editing each other’s work will lead to more detailed writing and connection due to the students genuinely giving edits and feedback.

Works Cited:

Beers, G. Kylene, Robert E. Probst, and Linda Rief. Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2007. Print.

Probst, Robert E. Response & analysis: teaching literature in secondary school. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004. Print.

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