Design Manufacture and Engineering Management [DMEM]

DMEM at the University of Strathclyde have redesigned some tasks in the first year class on Engineering Design to incorporate peer review. The department sees peer review and peer feedback as a way of enhancing the richness and variability of feedback students receive and as a way of engaging them as active assessors of their own designs. In this implementation the students' experiences with peer review were evaluated. A key issue that was explored was the relative benefits for learning of reviewing other's work versus receiving reviews on produced work. 


Department: Design Manufacture and Engineering Management

Module: Design 1 is a first year class on Engineering Design

Students: 85

Task: Students create a product concept related to the theme of 'eating and resting in the city'. In doing this they also develop a product design specification (PDS) which is a document which details all the requirements and constraints imposed on the design. Students peer review two PDSs produced by their peers and then review their own PDS. This peer review activity was not marked but 10% was allocated for professionalism in this module and students knew that their participation in the peer process would count in their allocation of this mark.

Peer Review: Peer review is anonymous and students were required to comment on the Product Design Specifications (PDSs) of two other students using criteria (in the form of questions) supplied by the teacher. These questions ask students to analyse and comment on the rationale for the PDS, to suggest ways of improving the completeness of the PDS, to analyse and comment on the target values and ranges in the PDS and to make one suggestion for improvement of the PDS. After reviewing the work of two peers, students then reviewed their own submitted PDS. In this scenario, students could revise their PDS at any time, for example, after having carried out reviews of other's or their own work and/or after they had received reviews.

Findings: The evaluation methods included an online survey and four focus group interviews (15 students).  Sixty-two out of 84 students completed the survey. The results showed that students believed that both reviewing and being reviewed were beneficial. In the open-ended responses to the survey however students' descriptions of what they learned were different for reviewing as compared to being reviewed. Students reported that reviewing helped develop critical thinking, their capacity to judge other's work and that when they generated feedback to review other's work they immediately saw how they might improve their own work. Many updated their own PDS immediately after reviewing. When students talked about the benefits of receiving feedback from reviews they noted that peers identified gaps in their work, or suggested improvements or that the reviews they received were motivational. A small percentage noted that the reviews they received were of poor quality. In the focus groups all students rated reviewing as more powerful for learning than receiving reviews.

A paper has been produced with all the findings from this implementation. Nicol, Thomson and Breslin (in press). Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: A peer review perspective. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. See Abstract here.

Improvements: The main improvement for next year would be to refine the evaluation so as to identify more clearly the differential benefits of reviewing and being reviewed.

Software: PeerMark (part of Turnitin Suite)

Departmental Leader: Dr Avril Thomson, Senior Lecturer, Feedback Co-ordinator and Engineering Faculty Learning Manager

Learning Technology Contact: Caroline Breslin