Can peer to peer reviews really help students?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) reviews revolutionise how students learn and teachers teach.

In a peer-to-peer review system, students evaluate and comment on their classmates' work. Since 2014, England and Wales have adopted this system, and the Education Endowment Foundation introduced a separate programme in 2018. Peer reviews helped the entire school improve. When all three were applied, the effects were positive. P2P review systems have many advantages. When used effectively, they can improve students' communication skills, promote active learning, and increase their interest in the subject. Peer reviews in the classroom may, however, have unfavourable outcomes. These include the chance of students feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, as well as the risk of unfavourable peer pressure.

Peer-to-peer reviews: pros 

Active learning: P2P reviews encourage students to engage with the material more actively, which promotes active learning. Instead of listening to lectures or reading textbooks, students are expected to actively evaluate their peers' work, critically analyse it, and provide helpful feedback. Students benefit from this process by developing their critical and creative thinking skills as well as a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Communication skills:Through peer-to-peer reviews, students can hone and develop their communication skills. Students are expected to offer constructive criticism to their peers, which improves their written and verbal communication abilities.

Engagement: Peer reviews can increase student engagement with the subject matter. When they know their peers will review and provide feedback on their work, students are more motivated to produce high-quality work.

Peer-to-peer reviews: cons

Overwhelming: P2P reviews can be overwhelming. Reviewing multiple peers' work and providing feedback can be time-consuming and mentally taxing. Some students may feel overwhelmed by the workload, which could negatively impact their ability to learn and perform in the classroom.

Negative Peer Pressure: Peer-to-peer reviews also create negative peer pressure. Students may feel pressured to be overly critical of their peers’ work to demonstrate their knowledge or “prove” their superiority. This can create an unhealthy competitive environment that harms learning. 

Application of peer-to-peer reviews

How can this instructional approach be implemented in schools? Although it is straightforward to suggest that students simply mark each other's work, there needs to be some structure and guidance. E-spaces offer a useful tool. A digital online assessment tool has been created to rate student work. Students can produce work and compare it to computerised results and peer reviews. This can reduce bias in peer reviews and further quantify student understanding of a learning objective. Teachers can design tests using this tool, and students can submit their answers. These assessments can be switched between schools. As a result, interactions between peers and students are encouraged, which is positive for the Education Endowment Foundation programme.

In conclusion, peer-to-peer reviews can be a useful tool for encouraging active learning, enhancing communication, and raising student engagement. However, it is imperative to be aware of potential negative effects and take preventative measures.

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