Professor Peter Halling at the University of Strathclyde has redesigned the third-year lab classes to incorporate an element of peer review. The goal of this implementation was two-fold: to ensure that students engaged actively with teacher feedback and to develop the students' own ability to make evaluative judgements about others' work and by implication their own work. A key issue explored was how to scaffold students ability to carry out peer reviews and what resources might support this scaffolding. This pilot project involved both quantitative and qualitative evaluation.


Department: Department of Chemistry

Module: Third-year biochemistry class (lab reports) 

Students: 30

Task: Students in groups carried out three lab reports and collated the data in spreadsheets.  They then wrote their own lab report.  In this class each lab report involves the student in answering about 15-20 questions posed by the teacher. These cover a range of types from factual questions, to plotting data to interpretative questions.

Peer Review: The peer review task involved students providing feedback comments on two reports written by their peers. The teacher of this class had over the years collated a databank of feedback comments relating to the questions in the lab reports and wished to get students to use these to help them formulate their commentaries. In the actual design three conditions were tested. in one condition, students were given a menu of the teacher comments and had to comment on student answers supported with this menu. In the second condition, the teacher provided a menu of questions he would ask about the students answers and the students could use this menu to structure their feedback comments. In the third, control condition, students were not provided with any menu. Students did not know whose lab reports they were providing feedback on.

Findings: The evaluation methods included an online survey and an analysis of the effects of the different menu conditions on the quality of the feedback students provided to peers. Initial results showed that the menu of questions led to better feedback than the menu of comments and that neither condition was significantly different from the no menu condition.  In the survey students reported that the menu of questions was more useful as it made them think about the answers more deeply and to construct a response that was their own and didn't just involve copying the teacher comments without understanding.  

Not all the data from this example has been fully analysed. A more complete account will follow shortly.

Improvements: The main improvement for next year would be to refine the evaluation so as to identify more clearly the differential benefits of the menu of questions over the comments.

Software: PeerMark (part of Turnitin Suite) being replaced this year with Workshop part of Moodle.

Departmental Leader: Peter Halling, Professor of Chemistry

Learning Technology Contact: Dr Sue Barnes -