Group essay and group-to-group feedback sessions (NN6)

Study board HA (psyk.)
Course title Social psychology
Course type/size Mandatory course (approx. 150 students)
Teaching format Online

Learning consultants’ reflection on NN connections of this activity 
NN6 highlights the value of leaving higher education with a mindset that is critical when thinking and constructive when collaborating. The activity described in this example exemplifies how BA students can start building these skills through a written group assignment and teacher-led peer feedback. Practicing peer feedback based on academic criteria will prompt reflections and sharpen students’ analytical skills. In particular, the process of giving feedback based on academic criteria will support the development of internal, critical reflections also in relation to own assignment. 

The example is also valuable because it has been designed with attention to the students’ social well-being. Students may have a fear of losing face when giving and receiving feedback and the use of a rubric created by the teachers will help to keep focus on the text. 

Teaching philosophy 
“The students on this course are relatively new to academia and need experience in academic writing, for example, they need to practice how to make an argument and how to use examples. Group work is used to support individual students and those who are less secure about academic conventions and what to do. Group work and peer feedback get students activated in terms of thinking about what the criteria are in academic writing.” 

Christian Wählin-Jacobsen 

Key objective(s) aligned with this activity 
The learning activity is a mandatory group assignment (essay), which follows the format of the regular exam, and subsequently a mandatory peer-to-peer feedback session. These activities are aligned with the following learning objectives of the course: 

  • Critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of social psychological theories in relation to a case.  
  • Demonstrate appropriate academic writing abilities including correct use of references, explicit argumentation, and correct use and definition of the concepts taught in the course.   

Description of the activity 
In this activity, the students first wrote a 10-page group essay in which they answered questions that were aligned with the course’s learning objectives. The groups were assigned randomly and had 4 weeks to complete this assignment.  

After the students had handed in the assignment, they were introduced to and guided by the teacher through a group-to-group feedback activity focusing on giving constructive feedback. This approach helps students gain a more active role in the course as compared to just receiving feedback. Research shows that giving feedback is more beneficial to student learning than purely receiving feedback. This is explained by the internal process of reflection on own work that is set off when a student critically evaluates a peer’s work.  

Use of rubric 
Giving feedback can be a daunting experience for students, and they can feel unsure of themselves and their ability to give constructive and useful feedback. Therefore, a rubric with specific academic criteria and performance levels was developed, and the students were asked to consider these criteria when giving feedback to each other.  
The rubric was co-created by the teachers on the course. 3-5 themes for the rubric were identified, and it was formatted so that each learning objective would have its own row in the rubric’s format (e.g., being able to account for a given theory, being able to analyse, being able to discuss). A fourth one, although not linked to the learning objectives, was added to evaluate general academic skills such as writing and structuring a paper. 

The class had 4 periods of 4*15 min of feedback. The groups would give oral feedback to each other by going through the rubric. The group who provided the feedback had to bring in examples from the paper in order to make it specific.