Camryn Kealey, Third Year BCogSci – Biological Foundations Stream
At the beginning of this semester, I began a scholarship of teaching and learning project, with one of my professors, Rebecca Merkley. This is a way to systematically investigate teaching and learning effectiveness in higher education. During the course of one of my classes, I became curious about the role that peer review could play in the classroom. After talking with Rebecca, we decided to work together on designing materials and implementing peer review assessment in the next section of the course and were lucky to be supported by Scholarship of Teaching and Learning funding from Carleton’s Teaching and Learning Services.
The purpose of this project was to integrate aspects of academia into the classroom and offer students a chance to learn more about peer review and how to offer constructive criticism to their peers. For me, peer review is a critical aspect of proper research. Therefore, it should be incorporated into research methods training. I hypothesized that by introducing peer review into the classroom, students would learn to give and receive feedback. This could lead to improved writing and also prepare students to be researchers in their future careers. Furthermore, I believe that this would give the students a chance to feel included in the research community.
As the first step in this project, I researched how other university classrooms have attempted to integrate this process into their class. One interesting example I found focused on evaluating if students perceived the benefits of peer evaluations (Girar, Pinar, & Trapp, 2011). This paper evaluated whether marketing students at two different universities in the states felt that peer-evaluations benefited them. The authors found that overall, the students did feel that peer-review benefited their overall learning through active class engagement (Girar et al., 2011). I decided that the best way to go about doing this would be to give the students a chance to review a classmate’s oral presentation and two of their classmates’ written papers. To help guide their evaluation of the oral presentation, students were given rubrics with guiding questions to help them give useful feedback. The review of their classmate’s writing was divided into two parts, a checklist of components required in an academic paper and a section where they could give feedback on the quality of the writing.
From the student’s point of view, they found that the peer review was beneficial to their learning. In a survey done at the end of the project, a majority of respondents felt that the feedback they received for their oral presentation would help them improve their presentation skills. A majority of students felt they had a better understanding of the peer review process by the end of the project. Furthermore, many students felt that the feedback they received helped to improve their writing!
Overall, I think this project was successful because both the students and I learned something valuable. They learned about the peer review process, and I learned about designing and implementing research projects! Throughout the process of this project, I learned about how you need to be able to adapt when aspects of the project do not go as planned. You also need to do a lot of background research to ensure that you are running the project in an effective way that benefits the participants and the researcher!
In conclusion, this project allowed me to explore the world of academia and to learn more about the work required to run a successful research project. Having the chance to be mentored by individuals who know the ins and outs of research was a highlight of this project. By working closely with Dr. Merkley and doctoral student Heather Douglas, who was the TA for the course, I feel that I learned a lot about research and that I am better prepared for my fourth year and beyond!
Girard, T., Pinar, M., & Trapp, P. (2011). An Exploratory Study of Class Presentations and Peer
Evaluations: Do Students Perceive the Benefits. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 15(1), 77–94.