Calibrated Peer Review Part IV

Digital Camera
A Savannah Bridge


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 II, Part III and Part V

For this posting, I would like to offer some of the student responses to the CPR process and their associated learning. The bottom line was that the majority did not enjoy the process. Maybe ¼ of them felt it could work with some tweaking and ¼ enjoyed and got a lot out of it (or they could have been angling for a better mark). The rest felt that the amount of work was not commensurate with the amount of learning they had about their writing.

Many found that the rubric feedback they received from their peers showed things like ‘content was lacking’ (got low mark and section circled in the rubric) but not how to change it. The feedback for all the papers was mostly editing and lacking in real information. More specifically, the rubric may have shown that content was lacking in the paper, but there was no suggestion as to what was missing or how it could be remedied.

Many felt it would be useful to know the marks that I had given the feedback as a comparison so they would know if their peers were on track or not and whether they should incorporate that feedback. When they got the mark from their feedback of others’ work back, they wanted feedback from me as well before changing their own papers. I told them that if I said they were missing something in the feedback they gave to others; chances were they were missing that piece in their own papers. One student said that she did this comparison based on the feedback I gave her feedback, and made major changes to her paper to the better. Many found the expectation that they would provide a mark and comments similar to the instructor to be counterproductive. It shut them down rather than buoyed them.

Many (I’d guess a little less than 50%) were actually able to get what I wanted out of this process. They were able to transfer the learning about writing from marking others’ work to their own. They saw errors that were in both their and their peers’ papers and could then see the same errors in their own papers. For example, one said she could see how poor organization in someone else’s paper can negatively affect the reading experience, so she had a look at her own paper’s organization. Similarly some could draw a parallel between the feedback they got on their own papers and the feedback they gave others. If the feedback was mostly editorial in nature and not very helpful for the deeper parts of the paper, they could see that they had done the same thing to others when marking their peers’.

A few felt insecure giving feedback when they thought they were not great writers themselves. I countered with, “But writers write for readers. You are half the equation. Who better than you to say what would make that experience easier or more meaningful?” Several called the process of having others give feedback on their writing as “inappropriate” and “forced” because they considered the paper to be theirs and they should not have to share it with others if they do not wish to. They were, however, able to tie this to their insecurities as writers, which I was extremely happy to see.

One had a complete loss of fragile confidence when she saw the caliber of other papers compared to her own. Many lamented the use of MLA in English, then APA (which they view as being largely self-taught) in BSN writing. If they are an insecure writer and got a huge difference in marking from one paper to the next (one got 93% from one marker and 63% from another) with little feedback as to why, it was extremely frustrating. However, very few of them came to me for help in sorting through this.  

So overall, I was pleased with the evidence I saw of the transfer of learning from marking papers to writing their own, but there I feel that there is more I can do in helping to facilitate this transfer. In my last posting, I will speak more specifically about what changes I would make to the process for next time.