The Nature, Reception, and Use of Online Peer Feedback in Higher Education

Dec. 02, 2008

Source: Computers & Education, Volume 51, No.4, p.1804-1817. December 2008
(Reviewed by The Portal Team)

This article focuses on the use of online interactive peer feedback in higher education and
identifies the successful uptake of feedback as an important aspect. The authors investigate the link between the nature of students’ feedback, the way it is evaluated by the receiver, and its consecutive use for the revision of students’ products.

Research Questions

1. In what way is the nature of peer feedback related to its use for the revision of texts?
2. In what way is the nature of peer feedback related to its reception by the receiver?
3. In what way is the reception of peer feedback related to its use for the revision of texts?
In order to investigate these relationships in different educational contexts in higher education, two separate studies were conducted: one in a professional Health Care course and one in academic Educational Science course. In addition, we implemented two different tools to facilitate the process of providing peer feedback in the Educational Science course,
leading to a fourth research question:
4. In what ways do different tools for peer feedback evoke differences in the nature, reception and use of feedback?

Two separate studies were conducted to investigate the link between these three variables across different educational contexts and tools.

Data Collection

Study 1

Data for the first study were collected over a period of 6 months at the Health Care Education study at the College of Arnhem Nijmegen in the Netherlands. 27 students worked individually on several assignments including internship reports, essays and reflection reports. The peer feedback process was organized in groups of four to ten students, and the feedback was aimed at each other’s portfolio products. There were no structured procedures for how, how much, when, or where to provide peer feedback. A consequence was that students did not receive feedback on all their products and did not produce a revised version of all products.

Study 2

The data for the second study were gathered during a 3-month Educational Science course at Utrecht University. 38 students in groups of three or four had to collaboratively create a set of course materials for high-school students. Students chose their own topics, as well as their target groups. The teacher provided some guidelines on how to design educational materials and a set of criteria according to which they would be evaluated (both in the peer feedback round as in the final teacher evaluation). Students of each group provided feedback on the product of one other group. The teacher assigned different roles to the students in commenting on each other’s product, along with different criteria for the feedback. The feedback was provided on a concept version of the materials over a fixed one-week period. After this, the students had one week to revise their chapters and hand them in to receive their final grades.


Both studies showed a significant relationship between feedback containing concrete suggestions and a successful uptake of the feedback. Regarding the different tools that were used, these concrete suggestions were more often produced in the Annotation system than in the Blackboard discussion forum, the latter showing more evaluative forms of feedback.
The authors also found significant relationships between elements of both the nature and the reception of feedback on the one hand, and the use of this feedback by the receiver on the other hand.

Updated: Dec. 07, 2008