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By Barbara Metcalf, Teaching Faculty Member, Bachelor of Nursing Program, Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, VIU

For all blog posts on this topic see Calibrated Peer Review Part I, Part III, Part IV and Part V

I thought that in this posting I would discuss some of the benefits and challenges of the Calibrated Peer Review (CPR) process from my point of view. As this was a new process for both students and instructor (me), one of the things that needed to happen was a class on feedback and another class in which students could learn how to mark an essay using the rubric. We covered giving and receiving feedback in week two, and then I used an entire class in week three on learning how to mark papers. For week three, students had a short pre-reading (thank you Liesel) on how to provide feedback to a peer about her/his writing. In class, I supplied three exemplars of past papers: one satisfactory, one exemplary and one that needed a great deal of improvement.

 

I had two cohorts of students to do these classes with. These classes were some of the best I’d ever had. Roughly 90-95% of the students were alert and totally focused for the entire class (even the 1pm-4pm Friday afternoon group). Given that both classes were afternoon classes at the end of the week, this was amazing to me indeed. While I had gone through the entire CPR process during the very first class when discussing assignments, I did have to go over the entire CPR process and timing again before they could wrap their minds around it. I had assumed I would not have to do that, so that was good learning for me. I’m fairly confident I will not have to do that next year as next year’s groups will have experienced CPR in 1st year. The class was set up so that we would discuss the readings first, then discuss the satisfactory exemplar, followed by the exemplary one, then the one that needed a lot of improvement.

 

The differences in the two classes were fascinating. One group really latched onto the reading. They got everything out of it that I wanted them to and were able to relate it back to me. They were content to jump into the exemplars and have the content evolve through the discussion of the exemplars. The other group experienced these initial activities differently. It was like pulling teeth to get them to volunteer anything from the reading. However, once we got something from the reading, it sparked lots  of discussion about the same things that came out more organically during the discussion about the exemplars with the other group. If ever I needed proof that each class had its own personality and way of relating and learning, this was it.

 

Both groups were fixated on wanting a fixed number of required references for their papers (to show depth and breadth of source material) and a fixed number of feedback items to give their peers. My office mate tells me this may be a function of the Year 1, semester 2 rubrics which spell out the number of references required for marks. I was caught off guard by this but will be ready for them next year. While they could see that we were moving them to be more independent and critical in their thinking about what depth and breadth of source material might look like, even once I explained it, they still had discomfiture around the lack of a number.

 

 

One of the things I think both groups could see was that there is variation to marking, even when using a rubric. While the marks for the satisfactory exemplar ranged from a level two to a low level four, the majority were right in level three range. And many of the hard markers who had given a mark in the level two range wanted to go back and change the mark they had given that first one to a level three after seeing the other two exemplars.

 

As for me, I am grappling with allowing the students to see the exemplars ahead of time. Many of the students wanted to take their time to fully comprehend what they were reading. I am worried about plagiarism, and I numbered all the exemplars I used in class to try to make sure I got them all back. If I post them on D2L to read ahead of time, will they download then use them? I just don’t want copies of these students’ work floating around since they were kind enough to give me permission to use them. I just don’t know if permission would extend to having their work downloaded. What do others out there think?

In subsequent submissions, I will discuss more of my learning from this process and what I will do differently next time, along with more about the student’s experiences. Ciao until then.