Friday, April 16, 2010

The point of peer review...

is for students to offer critiques to one another. This may seem like it goes without saying but as a believer in peer review and as an educator who has and continues to use peer review in my courses, I have learned this has to be stated. Critique is not a synonym for critical as in mean-spirited, it is a synonym for critical as in offering substantial suggestions for improvement.

The point of peer review is not just to make a colleague feel validated about what is good in their work. Certainly a good critique does point out what is done well. However if all the reviewer does is say "This is great, very interesting topic" their colleague has no idea how to improve their project/writing.

What I suggest to learners is to try the sandwich method. Offer a kind or positive comment, then offer suggestions for improvements, then end with something positive.

I have learned as an educator that peer reviewers often need an explanation of what it means to peer review the work of others, and they need tools to assist them. If there is a rubric/checklist for the assignment, reviewers can use this as a baseline for their review. If there isn't a rubric (there should be!) the teacher can explain what they will look for in grading the assignment.

I used peer review very successfully when teaching 8th grade and it works equally well with adult learners... once you get them past the point where they are endlessly positive and much too polite. I believe in stating things politely but there has to be some meat in a review. One way to remain polite and still offer good critical comments is to ask questions. "I was reading this section and I am not sure what is meant by the acronym XYZ. Can you explain this to me? Your readers may need this explain too."

Peer review has many positive aspects. First of all, the more a student helps others, the more they will learn themselves! Critiques require critical thinking about the form and substance of the work being reviewed, this critical thinking is then almost always applied back to the reviewer's own work. Reviewing also allows new eyes to see the minor errors which might be overlooked by the author of the work. Peer reviewing also builds community among the learners. Trust is needed when putting work out to be reviewed and when accepting reviews from others. Trust is a key element in building a learning community. Community is what it is all about!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Instructional design interviews - Ask an expert

As a classroom educator having a guest speaker in the classroom was an arduous event which required weeks of pre-planning. Finding a common time when the expert could be in the classroom with the appropriate group of students, getting clearance from the office, sometimes having to re-schedule, preparing the students for the content and the decorum of being an audience member. Yikes! No wonder guest speakers were a rare occurrence.

As an online educator having a guest speaker is a much easier exercise and a best practice which should be used frequently. The expert can be sent the questions in advance and answer them asynchronously in a wiki or in an email; or synchronously in a live event which can then be recorded for students who are unable to attend.

Recently our University of Wisconsin-Stout Trends and Issues in Instructional Design course sections were privileged to have as guest speakers Cammy Bean and Christy Tucker. Their interviews have been saved and are available for everyone to read. Instructional Designer Interviews Additional experts in instructional design will be guest speakers for upcoming classes and their interviews will be showcased here as well. Students were thrilled to have their questions answered by real instructional designers, especially designers of this caliber! What a privilege for our Instructional Design certificate program students to be able to ask questions of Cammy Bean or Christy Tucker!

Experts who would not or could not visit a traditional classroom are often able and willing to be guest speakers at a distance. In fact there needs to be a new term for experts who visit online or traditional classrooms from a distance asynchronously or synchronously. What would it be, any suggestions?