Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Think About What You Said About What I Said -- Benefits of Collaborative Feedback in the Classroom

 Peer feedback is an online learning technique which has been receiving a good deal of attention over the past few years. The educational world has not given sufficient attention to this important component of the learning process,but as increasing numbers of teacher report on their own positive experiences with collaborative feedback, more elearning classrooms are integrating the practice into their online environments. What is clear, however, is that asynchronous written communication gives students support for their ideas and thoughts, facilitates a supportive environment of information-sharing,  promotes analytical thinking and gives them time to process and absorb information, allowing them to "come back" to the content after thinking about it. 

Peer feedback is a component of social learning, or learning as part of a group. It's an important way to help students develop important skills in self-reflection, critical thinking, and co-construction of knowledge, as well as to value and gain experience in collaboration. It has also been shown to result in an enhanced sense of community, better learning outcomes, and increased acquisition of the life skills that are necessary for teamwork and reciprocity in the classroom and the workplace.

Collaborative learning in an elearning classroom can take the form of discussion among the whole class or within small groups. To successfully incorporate collaborative feedback in an elearning environment demands skill on the part of the instructor. The teacher must be able to create and manage interaction.

Some of the basics for fostering collaborative learning involve giving students:

1.     An understanding of what collaborative feedback involves.
Collaborative feedback involves informing others of your perceptions and suggestions for improving their performance as you provide your peers with positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.

2.     An understanding of why collaborative feedback can be helpful
Students who receive regular feedback about their work perform  better, learn faster, and develop better judgment than those who do not.

3.     Feedback skills
The instructor must teach the students to develop proper feedback skills. These steps involve:
a.     Stating something that the classmate wrote with which you agreed or liked.
b.     Stating something that the classmate wrote with which you disagreed or didn't like.
c.      Asking a probing question about something that the classmate wrote.
d.     Suggesting a new idea or way to look at an issue

Some recent comments from students in a JETS Jewish Contemporary Issues Class about their experiences with collaborative feedback:

"I enjoy reading what my classmates say on the discussion forums because sometimes I hadn’t thought about something they said, and it allows me to take their ideas and internalize them and add their answers to my own. Sometimes I will even change my opinion because of what someone has said. I also like the online aspect because I can do it whenever I want - I don’t feel rushed in class that I have to finish something and it allows me time to form my answer. (I like the ability to add and change)"

"I have learned how to be a responder- how to learn about a controversial topic and respond in a polite way that expresses my opinion."

"I also like the lino boards because it’s a great example of how you can build on what people say - literally. The boards always look so cool because there are stickies upon stickies and sometimes they branch off and/or you can add new ideas."

"I often learn just as much from my fellow students as I do from my teachers. It’s great to gain knowledge by sharing from each other. It’s like a multi-faceted chavruta only online!"

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