eCoaching Tip 69 Using Peer Feedback to Increase Confidence and Community

July 1, 2009

eCoaching Tip 69 Using Peer Feedback to Increase Confidence and Community

Using peer feedback works. It can increase student learning and student satisfaction. Yet we often forget to use it.  Even if the end of the term is near, you can still gently reviseyour evaluation processes to include some peer feedback.

By using even a modest amount of peer review, you can also reduce the time that you normally spend on grading.

Using Rubrics for Peer Feedback and Reinforcing Core Concepts

This tip answers three questions:

  1. What simple rubric can your learners use to review peer work, such as reflection papers, presentations, discussion posts, blogs, or podcasts?
  2. What is one recommended process for using peer review?
  3. What does research say about peer review?

By the way, this tip assumes that you are familiar with rubrics as a tool to (1) guide student work on course assignments and as a tool for you to (2) evaluate those learning products.

First of All, What is a Rubric?

Very briefly, as a reminder, a rubric is a scoring system. A rubric is usually expressed as a matrix table with the three desired characteristics in the left most column and a three-point scale for each of those desired characteristics in the next three columns. An example showing this rubric is available in the transcript of this podcast, and more examples are in the reference section.

You may find a resource from the Washington State University website particularly useful for customizing your own course rubrics when you are ready. The resource is the Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking. If you are just getting started using rubrics, use the simple rubric that follows.

A Simple Rubric

Here is a simple rubric for evaluating a short reflection paper, discussion posting, podcast, or other brief assignment.  Including the rubric in the assignment directions is a good practice.  It clearly communicates your expectations and provides a basis for self and peer evaluation.  Some faculty also provide examples of some model responses.   I am now going to walk through the characteristics of this rubric. As a reminder, you can access this rubric online at the transcript site for this podcast.


Simple Rubric for Reflection Paper, Discussion Posting, Presentation or Podcast


Desired Characteristics


One (1) Points


Two (2) Points


Three (3) Points

Clarity of Target Issue and

Perspective and Synthesis of Ideas

Identifies and discusses the issue, but the context is unclear and the conclusion does not lead to recommendations. Clearly Identifies and discusses the issue within a particular context; concluding section lacks next steps or recommendations based on synthesis of issues. Clearly identifies and discusses the issue and related issues within a particular context. The conclusion includes recommendations and likely impacts based on synthesis of issues.
Breadth of Perspective Discusses the issue from only one perspective with little evidence or analysis. Discusses the issue from two or more perspectives, with appropriate evidence and analysis. Discusses the issue from two or more perspectives, providing evidence and analysis to support recommendations with possible innovative insights.
Professional Expression Organization is confusing and the content may contain inaccuracies and not be on topic. Organization is effective; content is accurate and accomplishes the task, but presentation is not inspiring or convincing. Effective organization and professional expression with clear introduction, issue development and conclusion.  Presentation is convincing and persuasive.

Customizing Rubrics

This example rubric focuses on three desirable characteristics of written or oral expression. The first two characteristics of this rubric have a content focus; the third characteristics focused on how well the content ideas are expressed.

The first content characteristic sets expectations for the clarity and synthesis of ideas encouraging a clear identification and discussion of an issue. The second content characteristic sets expectations for the breadth of perspective, encouraging looking at an issue from two or more perspectives.

The third characteristic in the matrix is professional expression.  Including this characteristic communicates the expectation that responses to assignments follow the rules of effective and professional communication. The matrix has nine cells, providing a description of three levels of responses that are likely.

You may ask, why these two characteristics and where are they from?  These two content characteristics are from the set of eight intellectual standards discussed in Tip 67 – Developing Rigor in Our Questioning: Eight Intellectual Standards.  You may ask, why focus on just these two characteristics. The answer is this.   A rubric based on all eight standards would overwhelm learners and you.

This example rubric helps to focus on just two intellectual standards, synthesizing of ideas for clear communication and looking at an issue from other people’s perspective and cultural experience.  Over time in a course, all eight intellectual standards can be included in course rubrics.

Introducing Peer Review

The last phase of a course is not the time generally to introduce a new process; however, students also like variety and if you keep a new process simple, it can work.

Let’s assume that it is week 6 of an 8-week term and your students have a short reflection assignment. The assignment may be to reflect on the core concepts of a seminal journal article. The goals for the assignment might be to compare and contrast ways of building a talent pool for your organization. Part of your assignment included the rubric for this reflection paper as described above.

Your initial assessment plan was to have the students turn in their papers and you would grade them. If you decide to include peer review, you might try a variant of the following:

  • You divide your class into teams of three. Make it simple, such as alphabetical groupings for this review.
  • Each team of three students “turn in” their paper to their two peers.
  • The students review and score the papers using the rubric within 72 hours or as agreed upon.
  • Students have an opportunity, another 72 hours or as agreed upon, to revise their papers before handing them into you.
  • The students hand in their revised papers as well as their reviews of their peer papers. Or without the peer reviews. This is an instructor choice. The likely result is that student confidence increases, their work is of higher quality, and both authors and reviewers learn from each other’s papers.

You may be hesitant about using this structure and rubric for your peer review.  For this first exercise you may choose to simply leave it open-ended with a focus on comments and feedback, and give credit as a satisfactory if the review is completed.  For other peer assessment or for review of significant projects, you might choose to create a rubric that is customized to your assignment.

Research on Peer Review:  A Few One-Liner Recommendations

What does the research say about peer review?  What are the potential dangers? What are some of the pearls of wisdom? Here are a few one-liner recommendations.

  • Be sure to provide an opportunity for revision after peer review. (Andrade, n.d.) Evidence suggests that student satisfaction is increased if they have a chance to revise their work after a peer review, or after an initial review by an instructor.
  • With peer-to-peer evaluations, learners think about good writing when they are writing their papers and when they are reviewing other’s papers (Pare & Joordens, 2008)
  • Design projects with multiple review steps; design in self-assessment, peer-assessment and expert review (Moallem, 2005)
  • Peer evaluations are generally not statistically different from expert evaluations (Topping, 1998)
  • Peer interaction is most effective when orchestrated around a set of problems to be solved. (Merrill & Gilbert, 2008)
  • Peer assessment processes can usually clarify assessment criteria (Chen & Tsai, 2009)

These one-liners are just the tip of the research iceberg on this topic. Write or call with your questions and suggestions for future tips on peer assessment and interaction.

Quick Review of Rubrics

If you would like a quick review on rubrics in general, here are two resources:

  • E-Coaching Tip 27 (Fall, 2006): A Rubric for Analyzing Critical Thinking.Retrieved July 9 2010 from
  • Moskal, B. M. (2000). Scoring rubrics: What, when and how? Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(3). Retrieved July 9 2010 from

References and Resources

Andrade, H. G. Understanding rubrics.Retrieved July 9 2010 from

Andrade, H. &  Du, Y. (2005). Student perspectives on rubric-referenced assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 10(3). Retrieved July 9 2010 from

Chen, Y. C. & Tsai, C. C. (2009). An educational research course facilitated by online peer assessment.Innovations in Education and Teaching International.46(1), 105–117.

E-Coaching Tip 04 (Spring, 2006):  Managing and Evaluating Discussion Postings.Retrieved June 26, 2009 from

Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking. Washington State University, Fall 2006. Retrieved June 26, 2009 from

Comeaux, P.Assessing Students’ Online Learning: Strategies and resources.  Essays on Teaching Excellence: Toward the Best in the academy.17 (3), 2005-5006. Retrieved July 9, 2010 from

Paré, D. E. & Joordens, S. (2008). Peering into large lectures: examining peer and expert mark agreement using peerScholar, an online peer assessment tool. Retrieved July 9, 2010from

Moallem, M. (2005). Designing and managing student assessment in an online learning environment.  In P. Comeaux (Ed.), Assessing online learning, pp. 18 to 33. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing..

Merrill, M. D., & Gilbert, C. G. (2008). Effective peer interaction in a problem-centered instructional strategy. Distance Education, 29(2), 199 – 207.

Topping, K. (1998), Peer assessment between students in colleges and universities. Review of Educational Research, 68, 249–276.

Note: These eCoaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized, expanded and updated  in the second edition of the  book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips (2016) coauthored with Rita- Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached at judith followed by

Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 2006 – 2020