Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Peer Feedback: Inspired by John Spencer's Post

Bhargava explains it all by maximalideal, on Flickr
by  maximalideal  under
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License

I was going through some of the educators' blogs that I've collected in feedly when I came across  +John Spencer 's post titled The 20-Minute Peer Feedback System. John started the post with this sentence and I immediately clicked to read more.
I believe that peer feedback is critical for students.
I cheered. :) I have seen, and personally experienced, the power of feedback when it was provided with the right intention and in the right way. I've seen it work in different contexts, learning, work etc. But, I have also watched many people get it wrong. It usually turns bad when the people involved don't know what good feedback is and how it looks and sounds like, but more importantly where it should come from and the intention that should drive it. 

So, I read the post, I started to comment, the comment became a bit too long when I began to share something about how I've been using feedback exercises, so I decided to post it here instead. 

I liked the exercise a lot, and I have used several variations of it based on the objective of the particular session. What I find invaluable for a successful feedback exercise is to 

1- discuss "Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback, what, why and how"
2- agree the structure and criteria for the feedback in the particular session, like a mini rubric perhaps, allowing space for general impressions/feelings but always with the intention being to help the person reflect and improve and  coming from a place of support and caring.

Three flip charts later Petter realizes by jardenberg, on Flickr


Whenever there was no time for a full-fledged session for no. 1, making sure to agree no. 2 in a clear way -- may be putting it up visually as a reference for all to see  -- helped a lot. 

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  jardenberg 

I Like to do this exercise in 3s. The 3rd person sits as a silent observer (a fly on the wall) to provide feedback to both giver and receiver of the feedback (receiving is also a skill and not passive), and is usually the only one allowed to take notes. Of course this means that the exercise will be done three times so that each one gets the chance to give, receive and observe. 

Finally, to consolidate and allow all the groups to share with each other, I ask them to decide on their three major learning points (can be more but 3 seems to be a nice number). When they are ready with their lists, it's time to share. I like to capture the points in writing which of course can be done by adding to a shared document (physical or digital or both).

I need to find some good online resources on feedback or write something myself. Does anyone know of any, preferably supported by research?

Which reminds me, one of MIT's MOOCs on tedx introduced us to feedback and provided some guidelines followed by an exercise to practice giving feedback, and receive feedback on the feedback we gave :) . That was a totally unexpected but very interesting part of the course. Unfortunately at the time I couldn't continue the course, not even as a lurker, and missed on watching how that type of digital peer feedback worked and how participants reacted to it. One thing I remember well, while I am usually comfortable giving and seeking feedback in the physical world, it was scarier online. Again I suspect, it was the permanency of the written word, but more the absence of an easy way to express all the meaning that the human face and voice add to the words.

Well, I must check and see when the course is going to be offered next and plan to join it again.

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