Peer Feedback Tips

I can’t believe I have never written about Peer Feedback in teacher training on this blog. Well, one of the reasons is that to me personally, peer feedback has the same philosophy/rules/tips as trainer feedback to trainees/course participants (and possibly, as feedback to students on their performance).

Maybe, it is the right time to look at it more closely. I am currently working on a project where teams of experienced teachers/trainers complete a task and share a project they created, and the others give feedback. There is a set of agreed criteria, and my tips are for getting them started. So…

Designed on Canva https://www.canva.com/.

 

I asked this question on social media: What would your ‘Top Three Tips’ for Peer Feedback be?

Zhenya’s Tips

  1. Be Specific (Why you are saying what you are saying: what did you observe?)
  2. Be Kind (Why are you saying what you are saying?)
  3. Explore Together (rather than ‘evaluate’ your colleague)

Tips from my PLN:

Avoid the ‘Open Box’: Agree on the focus and criteria in advance to avoid bias and provide feedback that your peer would consider relevant. – Svetlana Kandybovich, Montenegro

Listen: You can’t begin to help a teacher improve until you understand why they do what they do now. – Matthew Ellman, UK

Reciprocity. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” – David, Canada

“Sticky Notes” — what positively ‘struck’ you and stuck with you 
“Cravings” — what’s missing, what needs further explanation, what you want to know more about 
Too Much Info” — what’s repetitive or unnecessary

– – Kristina, USA

Focus on the positive/strengths – Olga, Ukraine

1. Be economical with words (I love experimenting new sentences/questions that will make the colleague spill more)
2. Differentiate your feedback style in line with different individuals (some people love direct opinions while others love experimenting/simulating a learning moment again).

— Burak, Turkey

[please check the comments below for some more ideas!]

Colleagues from Libya:

  • Be clear
  • Use non-judgemental language
  • Be direct
  • Use encouraging and motivating language
  • Be helpful
  • Choose the right time to give feedback
  • Give feedback when you are asked for it
  • Appreciate the effort and highlight the positive moments first
  • Be objective
  • Know your audience (learn more about the person you talk to)

Zhenya (looking for answers).

Thoughts and Questions

Two ideas to add to the initial list

  • be creative and have fun (make it an attractively-looking product, make it fun to create, share and read)
  • be ‘cultutally sensitive’ (even if your peers are from the same culture as you are, and especially if you are using L2 as the culture of that language may be (significantly) different from the culture in your L1)
  • ask: what is the other person looking feedback for/on? (it may not be the same as what we would like to talk about!)

Rachel shared this useful peer feedback tool Ethan Mansur mentioned in his IATEFL talk** is the Feedback Ladder from Project Zero Harvard. I find it beautiful for a number of reasons, e.g., how far ‘suggestions’ are from the beginning of the process (and how rarely, if ever, they came up in the tips from my colleagues!)

**The talk was not recorded but you can read a summary of that session on Rachel’s blog (scroll down to Ethan Mansur’s Exam Prep Toolkit). If you don’t yet follow her blog, please join right now not to miss any great posts in the future!**

Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

Over to you:

  • Would your tips for ‘Peer Feedback’ be different from ‘Trainer Feedback’, for example, or ‘Teacher Feedback’ to students?
  • In your opinion, does ‘good peer feedback’ need to be (only) positive or (only) crtical?
  • What is your personal definition of a good (piece of) feedback?

Older posts about feedback on this blog:

Questions about running feedback sessions

2022 note: this post was written on an intensive course for new teacher trainers, and all the questions asked were their real questions about conducting feedback sessions (and the answers were written by Zhenya according to her 2015 beliefs).

Trainer Input during a Group Feedback Session 

2022 note: this is another old9er) post about a specific intensive course. We often called those sessions ‘guided reflection’, not feedback, therefore, it was not just ‘giving’ information or input to the people who had taught their classes but mostly focusing on helping them reflect about their teaching (and with their help, reflect on ours).

Feedback: Candy on the Table

2022 note: I still love the metaphor, and how it leaves us with the choice to act on the feedback we receive, or ignore it (or perhaps put the idea shared on hold and get back to it later)

Trainer Integrity and Participant Feedback 

Your Feedback Method Does Not Work!

Anonymous Notes as Feedback

2022 note: now in the online teaching/training era, this kind of feedback is much easier to get with the help of Google Forms, Answer Garden https://answergarden.ch/ or many others.

Feedback Leading to Action (in Trainer Conversations Series 2020)

Convincing Feedback? (in Trainer Conversations Series 2020)

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict https://wednesdayseminars.wordpress.com/.
This entry was posted in Reflective Practice, Trainer Reflections and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Peer Feedback Tips

  1. Rachel Tsateri says:

    Thanks for putting this together! Must read all your older feedback posts, soon! 👀👀

    Like

    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you Rachel! I would love to hear your feedback on those, as I think a lot has changed once we added the online dimension to training and observation. A lot to re-think, which is exciting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Svetlana Gavrilovic says:

    Hi Zhenya! How are you?
    The ladder of feedback is fantastic! It’s just wonderful how cautiously but prudently it takes you from bottom to top! There’s so much room for sensitivity to and understanding of the person who’s being given the feedback, and I love this indirect, sort of roundabout language that is used. I would use it the same way in any peer feedback situation though I guess a rung (or two) could be skipped in Trainer Feedback.
    Thank you very much for sharing this – it’s going to be the first thing I’m going to put on our ‘Dare and share’ noticeboard in the new school year!

    Best,
    Svetlana

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Zhenya says:

    Hi Svetlana
    Thank you for reading and leaving your comment! Always a pleasure to talk with you about teaching ideas and tips!

    Yes, the Feedback Ladder is a great example of how the feedback can be handled. Not my idea, but I fully agree. You mentioned two things I would like to respond to:
    1) ‘I love this indirect, sort of roundabout language that is used.’ – I find it interesting what we call ‘indirect language’: do you mean starting with the attempts/clarification, and later on focusing on the positive? If we see this is ‘indirect’, would the ‘direct’ be starting with what we see as ‘negative’ and ‘mistakes’? (perhaps, this is what makes feedback/observation such an unpleasant and unwanted activity for many teachers?)
    2) ‘I guess a rung (or two) could be skipped in Trainer Feedback’. – Which ones would you skip? It is again related to the above, but it seems like what ‘we’ (teachers, trainers, even students) see as ‘feedback’ is more about ‘fixing mistakes’ than showing progress, noticing what is now done better, focusing on strengths and also areas to work on.

    I would love to talk about this (as you see, I am thinking a lot about those ideas 🙂 ) You made me want to reflect deeper on the beliefs I hold about feedback (and reflection).
    Thank you for this chat!
    Zhenya

    Like

    • Zhenya says:

      P.S. I got so involved in those feedback thoughts that did not even mention how curious I am about the ‘Dare and share’ noticeboard! 🙂

      Like

      • Svetlana Gavrilovic says:

        Hi Zhenya!
        When I say ‘indirect language’ I mean using a lot of these indirect questions and polite expressions when clarifying, expressing concerns and making suggestions – I believe most of us just say ‘I don’t understand this/This isn’t good/You should/shouldn’t … ‘ but with this indirect language you are more considerate of the other person’s feelings/ideas and make space for reflection on his/her part as well.
        I wouldn’t personally skip any of the stages in the ladder of feedback but I guess in trainer/teacher feedback expressing concerns and making suggestions could be blended into one and occasionally you may not need the clarification stage.
        The Dare and share noticeboard is the cascading knowledge activity I tried immediately after our Integrating critical thinking skills course. It’s a noticeboard for sharing ideas, lesson plans and other useful information. We keep it in a small staff room for language teachers only (I think I’ve sent you a photo or two or maybe not …?). Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked very well in the last two years as we’ve worked more online than face-to-face but I do hope things get better this school year :).

        Best,

        Svetlana

        Liked by 1 person

        • Zhenya says:

          Svetlana, thank you for the comment! Your reminder about the Notice Board from our ICT course is wonderful: so true that it is much harder (or… impossible?) to manage it purely online, unless it is some kind of Padlet Board, or other display. With a lot online already, having one more place to keep track of could be hard. Hopefully, the new school year is in the classroom for you! 🙂

          I am thinking about the Direct vs. Indirect Communication Styles (more than only language) even more now. Found this small post by Indeed (Career Guide) Editorial Team: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/direct-communication and enjoyed their PURRR method to disagree or handle conflicts.

          Hopefully, another post is coming soon, which I hope brings us another encounter and professional dialogue opportunity!
          Gratefully and respectfully,
          Zhenya

          Like

    • Zhenya says:

      Rachel, thank you for leaving the link here! I love, love the ideas there, and how different they are depending on where the comment writer comes from: teaching, training, other fields. Will certainly come back there more than once!

      Like

  4. Girish M says:

    A succinct and informative post, Zhenya; I love the flow.

    It’s been a while since I indulged in peer feedback. In my opinion, you have got the ’Zhenya’s Tips’ spot on; I wouldn’t change a thing. However, if I had to add one more aspect before everything else, it would be to spend time building rapport because, personally speaking, it would be difficult for me to have a constructive conversation with someone I don’t feel comfortable with.

    Thank you for sharing 😇

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Dear Girish

      Thank you very much for following my blog, and for this comment!

      Yes, yes and yes for building rapport: I think when we think ‘peer feedback’ we somehow assume this trust and comfort level with each other, but oftentimes, and especially in an intensive 4-5 week course, that kind of relationship is not there (yet). In that sense, rapport building is a wider/broader task for the whole course, and it is the post-teaching feedback time when it is particularly noticeable.

      Liked by 1 person

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