Ertmer et al: The Launching Point for a Critical Review
Ertmer, P., Richardson, J., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., Lei, K., & Mong, C. (2007.) Using Peer Feedback to Enhance the Quality of Student Online Postings: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 412-433.
This study used a small group of graduate students to assess the impact of peer feedback on the quality of students discussion posts in an online course. Each student posted a response to specific discussion questions and other students were assigned to assess the quality of their post using Bloom’s taxonomy as a rating scale. The posts were also rated by the instructors and the researchers and the anonymous peer feedback was provided to the original poster. The study determined that feedback from peers resulted in a maintained quality of discussion posts as opposed to an improvement. Students still found instructor feedback to be more valuable than peer feedback, and commented that giving peer feedback was actually more helpful than receiving it.
Ertmer et al are not strangers to the studying of peer feedback; former articles regarding several of the authors were cited throughout the article. Considering this, the methods used in this article were surprisingly basic. Concerning reliability and validity, the authors went to great pains to ensure that all feedback was anonymous and that all researchers, instructors, and students agreed on the proper requirements for each level of rating in Bloom’s taxonomy. One of the main drawbacks of using Bloom’s rating method is the limited room for improvement; possible ratings are 0, 1, or 2, and if a student starts the semester by properly synthesizing or analyzing the discussion questions than there is no room for improvement, only grade maintenance.
While the content of this article isn’t necessarily applicable to the direction I would like to take my research, it is certainly applicable to my weekly coursework. We are frequently asked to participate in discussions that consist of just a few posts and make them into meaningful academic discourse. While this occasionally occurs, many times discussions turn out to consist of just a few disjointed posts. A quote in this paper from Black (2005) put discussions into perspective with a short definition of what discussion is: “a dialogical process that leads to increasingly sound, well grounded, and valid understandings of a topic or issue.” While many online discussions begin this process, rarely is the discussion seen through to a resolution, solution, or agreement. A major issue pointed out in this study is how time-consuming providing feedback to multiple students is for both students and instructors. While requiring a true discussion to take place would provide invaluable learning to all participants, it would also be incredibly time consuming and may last for several weeks without changing topic if students did only a minimum requirement of posts.