Why Every Student
Students become more engaged when they
offer constructive feedback on one another’s work.
The final bell rings on the last day of class before the semester break. Students tream out of the room as the teacher stands by the door. Glancing back at her desk, she sighs. It is piled high with
posters, compact discs, index cards, and papers, the
stack so tall that half of it falls to the floor in a heap.
This pile represents 10 weeks of student work,
reflecting students’ creativity and mental effort. Only
the teacher will look at these projects now, and only
she will provide detailed assessment, which will
reach students long after they have stopped caring
about these projects. There has to be a better way to
give meaningful feedback.
© STEFANIE FELIX
I have found a better way that I use in middle
school enrichment and mainstream classes in many
content areas—peer critiques. As my students work
on major projects—both during the creation process and once
they have a finished product—they present those projects to
the entire class. Each student receives a formal critique with
suggestions for improvement from fellow classmates. Through
peer critiques, students learn to appreciate the diversity and
richness of one another’s work—and to enrich their own work.
Authentic Feedback for Authentic Assessments
Using peer critiques to evaluate and improve student work is
a natural outgrowth of the movement toward more authentic
assessments in education (Henderson & Karr-Kidwell, 1998).
Both formative and summative assessments now commonly
go beyond multiple-choice tests to include live performances,
digital presentations, simulations, and so on. We have moved
from a focus on judging whether students know isolated facts
to a focus on assessing whether students can apply newly
acquired skills and concepts.
One rationale for authentic assessment was a desire to
better mirror “the real world.” Educators realized that student
performance on tests did not ensure successful transfer of
skills to the outside world. Just as our forms of assessment
have become more authentic, so our means of providing feed-back on students’ projects should reflect the kinds of real-world feedback they will face.
Formalized peer critiques simulate the experiences students
will have in the workplace. They will need to consult with
colleagues and supervisors to get an honest evaluation of their
efforts. To succeed in their field, they will need to receive such
information graciously and apply it to their work—and offer
detailed feedback diplomatically to coworkers. Thus, peer
critiques help students prepare one another for life.
What Are the Benefits of Critiques?
Students Get More Out of Feedback
The authentic assessment approach has led students to craft
more diverse, complex final products—which deserve a wider
audience than the teacher. As learners critique one another’s
work, they might notice praiseworthy points or pose questions that the instructor has not thought of. A student might
ignore feedback from a teacher but suddenly pay attention