Ertmer, P., Richardson, J., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., Lei, K., Mong, C. (2007). Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the Quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 12(2), 412-433.
In this article, the authors used a case study analysis as their method for investigating the effects of peer feedback in online classroom discussions. They began by reviewing literature concerning the effects of discussion in general on learning and cited references demonstrating that many classroom discussions trended towards personal information sharing and comparing and lacked critical thinking skills and analysis. The authors also reviewed existing literature surrounding what constitutes quality feedback in general instructional use as well as the use of feedback in online learning. It is noted that quality feedback is a time consuming endeavor so many are evaluating the positive and negative aspects of utilizing peer feedback for online environments. Ertmer and the other members of the research team outlined their research focus which was to investigate the impact of peer feedback on the quality of students’ postings as well as students’ views on the value of giving and receiving peer feedback. The authors outlined the specifics of their mixed-methods study methods and the tools that were use for their case study of graduate level students, which included surveys, interviews, and scoring of students’ discussion postings for level of quality using Bloom’s taxonomy. Their results showed no significant difference in quality of discussion postings from instructor to peer-provided feedback. However, qualitative data showed that students did utilize peer feedback to improve upon their posts. Pertaining to students’ perceptions of the value of peer feedback, results indicated that students still preferred feedback from their instructor. The study also showed that students found the same level of value in giving and receiving feedback. Finally, the authors discussed their findings and possible limitations to their study, including the ideas that only two levels of Bloom’s taxonomy scoring might not have left enough room for growth and that the discussion questions may have encouraged more personal information sharing versus higher-order thinking.
Ertmer and the other authors provided a well-organized literature review that led directly to the need for their study. By outlining the importance of discussion in general and its current inadequacies as well as the importance of feedback and the current challenges for quality, instructor-provided feedback, the researchers demonstrated a clear need for studies evaluating the effectiveness of peer feedback as a possible solution and instructional strategy. The use of a case study allowed the authors to collect in-depth data with detail pertaining to the views of each of the seven participants. Also, the mixed-methods study provided quantitative data concerning scoring and quality level of postings but also qualitative data from interviews that gave more insight to specific perceptions, opinions, and reasoning. These two different types of data helped to bring a clear picture to overall results of the study.
This article connects to my current research interests because it addresses the issues of the time and effort it takes educators to provide students with quality feedback in online learning environments. I’m interested in the use of instructional technology as a means of providing differentiation in the K-12 setting. Sometimes in order for those tools to be implemented effectively, there is an increase in the amount of time expected from and required by the teacher. In order for time to not become a factor that takes away from the effectiveness of those tools in providing differentiation as well as inclusion of collaboration, the implementation of peer-provided feedback for K-12 becomes a consideration. However, the challenges associated with peer provided feedback at the K-12 level may be even greater than post-secondary levels so the findings of this study and the final recommendations provided for implementation could be useful.