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Assessment for learning: Building an academic community through peer review


This is the fourth post in our Assessment for Learning (AfL) series as we anticipate Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning, a McGill University symposium taking place on December 7, 2018.

How can opportunities for peer feedback create an academic community in your classroom? Early in my English and philosophy majors, I often felt that the work I was doing existed in a vacuum – it was never critically thought about by anyone besides the instructor and only seemed relevant to the course I was taking. In my final year, one of my instructors asked the class for feedback on a paper she was developing, framing the discussion as one that she typically had with colleagues in her discipline. After that, she asked each of us to share prospectuses we had written and do a feedback exchange with a peer. Having seen how my instructor engaged us in providing her with feedback, as she engaged in peer review with her colleagues, the experience of peer feedback became more meaningful to me. Instead of doing an exercise for the purpose of a course, we were working with one another as colleagues in an academic community and we held ourselves to a certain standard, putting significant effort into the feedback we gave.

Fellow grad student Simone Tissenbaum accompanied me on an expedition through McGill University’s downtown and Macdonald campuses to ask students about the types of assignments that have really helped them learn. One student shared with us their experience in an English seminar. Each student drafted a short research paper, presented it to the class and then received feedback from peers and the instructor. Through numerous stages of revision, students expanded first drafts into potentially publishable final papers. Listen to what the student says.

Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategy: Asking students to write for “real audiences can be motivating for them. Read about a “realistic” writing assignment.

Beyond Grading: Effective Assessment Strategies for Better Learning – December 7, 2018

Do you teach at McGill University? You’re invited to a symposium where we will engage our community of instructors in learning about creative and effective assessment strategies to help improve students’ learning and motivation to learn, and inform teaching practices. View the symposium program and register to attend.

Check out the other posts in the Assessment for Learning series:

Kira Smith is an MA student in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University. She received her BA in English and Philosophy from McGill in 2017 and has been working as a project assistant at Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) since. An avid unicyclist and voracious reader of pretty much anything, Kira enjoys good chats about student affairs and TLS coffee.

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