Friday, November 23, 2012

Two Easy Peer Feedback Methods

Peer feedback can be extremely valuable in the BE classroom, especially when it comes to communication skills.  There are two reasons for this.

First, my learners are typically all in the same company and/or department and have a better grasp of the conventions within the discourse community.  Second, the learners have years of experience and training in various areas which they can draw upon to give feedback.  For example, several of my learners include project managers who have taken part in many training sessions on relationship building and giving feedback.  It is great to spread that knowledge.

Of course there are many other great reasons for constructive peer feedback, but there are also dangers, too.  Without direction and some limits, peer feedback can be overly positive or only highlight shortcomings.

For example, here is some peer feedback I received on a proposal I wrote for a university class.

·         Your introduction is very wordy.  I would consider consolidating some of the paragraphs and cut back on so many words.  Once you write the Letter of Transmittal you will realize most of what you wrote in your introduction will also be in your Letter of Transmittal.  Your introduction should be concise and to the point. You use too much detail for the reader in the first two paragraphs, which led to repeating most in the body of your proposal.  
·         Your title page doesn’t include who you ultimately want to read your proposal.  In our textbook on page 289 the title page lists who it is prepared by and who it is prepared for.  The prepared for individual will also be the name you address your Letter of Transmittal to. 
·         I would also consider spelling out what R&D because readers may not understand the acronym. 
·         You are also missing table of contents, which is a requirement for the report.
·         When using visuals you should name them in the proposal i.e. Figure 1, Figure 2, etc. Also if you pulled your illustrations from somewhere else you need to cite those as well. 

Hardly motivating... did I do anything well?  By the way... I did fine on the final assignment.

A Simple 3-2-1

I like to use a simple 3-2-1 feedback format for peer feedback.  I simply write on the board prior to a presentation, meeting, email, etc.

3 things they did well.
2 things they can improve.
1 thing you want to take and use in your presentations, emails, etc.

Then after the simulation/role play, I give them time to fully write out their feedback for the person.  I do not read them and let the learner look at them without pressure after the lesson.  Typically, the learner will come back the next week and thank their classmates for the excellent responses.  Then when we are giving class presentations, all participants are more likely to give complete, honest, and constructive feedback because they will receive the same in return.

Email Workshops

A second method for extensive peer feedback is email workshops.  I will set up pair groups and give each pair the task to write an email.  Each situation will be similar.  Note:  I will change the emails based on the target function.

For example: (the learners are told to fill in details to fit their job/situation)

Group A
  • To introduce yourself to a new business contact.  You will be working together in the future.
Group B
  • To follow up on a conference.  You met the person for the first time and talked shortly, exchanged cards and agreed to stay in touch.
Group C
  • To get in touch with a former friend / colleague.  You were close before but lost touch after several years.  But now you may need some help from him / her.
Then, the pairs compare and contrast their emails based on subject line, greeting, opening, structure, opening for discussion/response, closing, formality, and length.

Then I will have someone run to the copy machine and make copies for everyone.  Note: I give them an email template on A4 paper with all the top fields and a writing area.

Then the members of the three different groups will read the other emails.  While they are reading, I will mark the emails for accuracy and vocabulary.

To conclude, the members of the groups will meet together and discuss dos and don'ts in there situations, good structure, appropriate phrases, etc.  We will bring all the information together on a powerpoint slide and that will go out to the participants.

The participants absolutely love it.

So, two ideas on how I use peer feedback in my classrooms.

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