Black is white. Up is down.

27 02 2013

“Daphne Koller even argued that large online classes are better than small classes because when you have the students do the grading and the feedback, the quality of the responses goes up and the time for responding goes down.”

– Bob Samuels, “Report from Little Hoover: Standing in Front of the Online Train,” Changing Universities, February 27, 2013.

For now, I’ll simply note that my experience in Jeremy Adelman’s World History Coursera MOOC demonstrated almost the exact opposite. I’m hoping that you all will be able to read my extended thoughts on the subject of peer grading one of these days, but since I’m told they will actually be published somewhere other than this blog I have no control over exactly when they will appear.



8 responses

27 02 2013

Well, I’ll just bet the “time for responding goes down.” Hard to believe the quality goes up. One of my students years ago complained about the little peer circles for rough drafts I finally started doing in my Freshman Comp classes (because everyone else was and the pressure to conform was growing). Here’s what she said: “This is the blind leading the blind. I’m here to learn from YOU, not from some other kid.” Although I don’t think she saw the real value that can be found in the exercise, I have to admit that basically she was right. And I think it applies to Koller’s idea too.

27 02 2013

Like RAB, I teach comp a fair bit, and do peer revision work. But I’ve learned that I need to provide a lot of guidance and incentive to get students to give decent feedback. I think there’s value to students learning to give useful feedback (especially in the workplace), and I think it’s a reasonably good way to spend some time in composition classes. But having to guide and then grade the feedback (even minimally) means that it actually adds work for me.

If we take peer feedback seriously, then we teach students how to give useful feedback and give them some incentive to do it as well as they can. I don’t remember reading about that in your MOOC experience, nor in other MOOC stuff I’ve looked at.

27 02 2013
Jonathan Rees


That incentive didn’t exist. There was some language about being a good citizen in the peer grading instructions, but that was it.

One of my lessons from teaching, including using peer evaluation (as opposed to peer grading), is that students only take assignments seriously when they know I’m going to read them. Even if incentives existed to do a good job, as long as they know that nobody in authority will review their reviewing they will generally do only the minimum it takes to get by. If they’re not being graded, then I can’t imagine what kind of incentive could possibly work. Candy?

27 02 2013
Anne Corner

Peer grading. Don’t get me started. After a couple of papers in Adelman’s course I stopped playing. The reasons are obvious.

For my work:
1. Stupid comments
2. Inadequate comments
3. Just plain wrong comments
Also the fact that I know how to write an essay so what are they going to teach me.

For others work:
1. Papers were either good or bad – not much in the middle
2. If good, what is there to say but nice work
3. If bad, can I teach this person to write an essay with a few comments. Of course not.
4. I had a couple of plagiarists too.

The topics were such that you were just regurgitating the textbook and lectures which I don’t consider writing a history paper anyway. They dumbed it down so they could use peer review. It would never work if you wrote a researched paper.

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