Ertmer, P., Richardson, J., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., Lei, K., and 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.
In this article, Ertmer, et al. provide a thorough introduction justifying the background of their study. The existence of decades-worth of research show the positive correlation between student discussion and higher understanding. The detail almost goes overboard with redundancy in the importance of feedback in general. The role of feedback in online environments draws attention to not only the importance of feedback in attaining positive results, but the negative effects associated with lack-of feedback, particularly in an online environment. Challenges of providing instructor feedback are identified as a lead-in to the solution of peer feedback as a viable and preferred alternative. The authors provide adequate sources to support the value of peer feedback, for both the student receiving and providing the feedback. Challenges are provided, but with less certainty of their validity (the presence of words like “may”, “suggest”, “unclear”, and “tend” provide the reader with a clear understanding of what is known and what is speculative).
The study attempted to provide research on the effectiveness of peer feedback specific to online learning environments. Exploratory methods sought to find perceptions using descriptive and evaluative approaches. Students were observed for the duration of one course, in a case study format. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected. The researchers took efforts at removing subjective influence, and scoring was based on a consistent measure of quality based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Perception of peer feedback was obtained through pre- and post-surveys, as well as in-depth interviews. Questions focused on value, impact, comparing peer to instructor feedback, giving versus receiving feedback, and benefits and/or challenges in the process.
There is a fair assumption by the authors that the reader of this article must have an understanding of Bloom’s Taxonomy. As someone who does, I feel this is reasonable but if I’m being critical, I’d say they may want to spend a little time addressing it as a foundation of their research method. At first pass, it also appears they left out the entire theoretical background. The article concludes with a confirmation of their thesis, that peer feedback is effective in online learning. They also offer suggestions for design and implementation of peer feedback for instructors (albeit vague). The purpose was set as exploratory, and Ertmer, et al. did explore enough to justify further research, although I would have liked to see more attempts at gathering quantitative data based on improved cognitive understanding or more significant knowledge transfer based on peer feedback in online settings versus peer feedback in face-to-face settings, or peer feedback versus instructor feedback.