Peer Review steps are a sequence of steps in which learners are directed to submit a piece of work. Each learner will review and feedback on work submitted by other learners.
Peer Review falls under formative or informal assessment - they do not produce a score that contributes towards a final course attainment grade.
Feedback on Peer Review can go in two directions. Learners report enjoying the process and seeing value in it. But others are sometimes frustrated by poor quality submissions to review, or by receiving poor feedback on their own work. Although we cannot guarantee 100% student engagement in peer review exercises, by following the below guidance, we can try to avoid these common pitfalls.
Top tips for peer review
1. Consider whether peer review is appropriate
Peer Review is suitable for all course types but we recommend using it sporadically and with careful justification. They require significant learner buy-in.
Using a quiz or test may be a more effective way for learners to achieve the learning outcomes for your course. Peer review tasks work best when the rubric encourages the reviewer to consider how the writer constructed their argument and came to the conclusion that they did. If a course is for complete beginners (eg. introduction to coding) often learners do not feel they have the expertise to give meaningful feedback on a peer’s work, feeling like they are the ‘blind leading the blind’.
2. Plot your course outline
Share your outline and sample content with FutureLearn Learning Designers for feedback before you build.
3. Carefully consider time on task
How long it will take learners to complete their work, and how long it will take to feedback on others’ work?
4. Create clear instructions for learners to follow
Both in completing the task, and in giving feedback.
5. Use open-ended questions
They encourage the reviewer to respond in full sentences with constructive feedback, rather than replying Yes/No.
6. Follow with an additional discussion step
None of the three assignment steps include a comments section. This would distract learners from the task and possibly result in plagiarism. Many learners appreciate an opportunity afterward to feedback on the task and share what they’ve learned.
Inset an additional discussion step for learners to share their reflections on the task experience. Positive comments from learners who found the process formative can encourage others to go back and participate if they skipped over the peer review steps.
How it works
Peer review assignments on FutureLearn are always comprised of three steps:
Learners are given guidance on the task and can submit their work using a text box
Learners submit feedback on another learner’s work.
Learners must first submit an assignment in the assignment step before they can review other learners’ assignments. If they have not submitted an assignment, they will be reminded automatically. Learners are not obliged to review assignments but may review as many as they wish. Each assignment can be reviewed by more than one learner.
Learners are presented with a review(s) of their own assignment to reflect on. In this step learners can also choose to say whether the review was helpful – if ‘yes’, the reviewing learners is notified; if ‘no’, the reviewer does not receive a notification.
Set up a peer review activity
To set the peer review steps up please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or your Partnership Manager. Follow our create a great peer review guidance below.
In the assignment step provide sufficient context for the task. A successful assignment task places learners within context where the required work would be useful and relevant to their learning. Tasks should not, for example, take an existing learning outcome and prefix it with “write 300 words on…”, but rather frame it as a practice for a specific learning outcome, eg. writing a blog post or a project proposal. Also, it can be highly beneficial for the learner to set an assignment that results in a tangible end product after the course ends, e.g. a report they can share with colleagues or a letter they could send.
You can also add related files and links to the assignment task as needed.
Content appears in the reflection step automatically once the learner has had their assignment reviewed so there is no need to add any content.
Test out the peer review activity with a reviewer in your organisation to help check whether the guidelines are clear.
A CSV file of the peer review assignments and peer review reviews is available to download from the Stats Dashboard at any time while the course is running.
Other steps can appear in-between the peer review steps as long as they are all contained within the same activity. This might allow you to better “onboard” learners into the review process, perhaps giving more guidance on how to provide useful feedback, or having a video step of the educator walking through an exemplar submission.
Create great guidance in your peer review
- Give two types of guidance
- How to complete the assignment
- How to give a comprehensive review of a peer’s work.
Find examples for both in the case studies below.
- Be specific in your guidance
Keep learners on a level playing field when it comes to reviewing each other’s work by:
Giving learners just one option regarding the task and topic (rather than 2 or 3).
Always setting a word count for the assessment.
Write the guidelines in the form of questions that can be answered. Check they make sense when writing the assessment as well as when reviewing it.
- Remind learners - no edits after submission
Include a technical note on task subscription. Remind learners they: will not be able to edit their work after submitting it. Might find it easiest to write it offline and then paste it into FutureLearn.
- Clear instructions for third-party tools
Give clear instructions on how to use diagrams, images, or other forms of multimedia if they are included.
- Provide guidance on feedback
Coach learners in providing useful feedback. You could even include a step in between Assignment and Review to provide additional resources that will help participants become better reviewers.
Giving guidance to learners about how to receive criticism without taking it personally might prevent less confident learners from becoming discouraged and giving up on a course.
- Model answers
Give links to model assignment answers at the start of the following Discussion Step, or in your end-of-week email. These examples must be exemplars created by educators, not actual learner assignments. The FutureLearn Terms and Conditions (item 7.11) state clearly: “We will not make available any Learner content related to your assignment or assessment”.
- Offer further help if needed
Providing an expanded rubric, translated instructions, exemplar assignments, and structured essay templates or prompts can help less able learners.
Screenshots from learners perspective
The review given in this example is brief for demonstration purposes – in practice learners should submit a considerably more detailed review.
Below is a case studies PDF that gives examples of the best way to describe peer review guidelines for learners and the best way to review a peer’s work.
Terminology on this page that you aren’t familiar with? Check out our glossary.