Giving feedback to peers is a valuable learning opportunity—both for you and the student you are responding to. In some instances, you will be asked to give constructive criticism to a peer student on their writing or development on a project. This guide will help you to both give peer feedback and receive it.
Other times, you will be asked to reply to peer discussion forum posts to engage in and perhaps deepen the conversation and lead to better understanding of a topic. In these instances, use our Writing a Discussion Board Post And Responding to Peer Discussion Posts guide.
Providing constructive criticism to a peer’s project or paper
It can be difficult to provide constructive criticism when you are still learning. Keep in mind that this is more of a learning opportunity for you because you get to review examples of projects that are similar to what you are working on. You may see some good examples and some not-so-great examples. Seeing what is working and what isn’t working allows you to become a better evaluator of your own work. Self-editing is a skill that takes a lot of practice and giving peer feedback actually helps you to improve that skill.
Keep an academic and respectful tone.
Use language that is appropriate for an academic setting. If you disagree with a student’s points or perspective, never attack or embarrass them or their work.
Give evidence and examples.
If you have a different perspective or think your peer should make a change, you can state this directly, while also giving evidence supporting why you have a different perspective or why they should make a change within their project. For example:
I think you’re completely wrong to choose this approach to the case. I think that it would be better for the teacher to make a report to a local agency instead of just calling the parents about this issue.
I have to respectfully disagree with your approach to this case. As outlined by Smith (2010), chatting with the parents about this issue, rather than making a report, could increase the risk of harm for the child.
Be specific rather than general.
Avoid general comments like “good job” or “I enjoyed your post.” These types of comments do not help your peer improve. Instead, give specific feedback. For example:
You provided some interesting statistics to back up your points on this topic, but the sources you used were 20 years old. To improve your argument, I would suggest using more timely sources so your statistics reflect the current state of this issue.
Avoid giving criticisms alone.
This is a learning opportunity, so be sure to include what your peer has done well in addition to what can be improved. For example:
You provided a thorough discussion of the background and purpose of the Individual's with Disability Act (IDEA). I think your post could be strengthened by including some specific examples of how IDEA impacts the services students receive in the classroom. For instance, does IDEA impact learners differently based on age? You are really good at using many different sources to support your work; your post really helped me to better understand the background of IDEA.
Questions can help your peer to add more development to a paper or to show areas that need clarifications. For example:
Does IDEA impact learners differently based on age? In what way?
Can you rephrase the idea in the third sentence of this paragraph? I think I know what you are saying, but I’m not sure if I’m right.
Pay attention to what others are doing to help you improve your own writing.
After you provide feedback to peers, complete a self-assessment of your own writing. Seeing both good and bad examples from others can provide a lot of insight into revising and editing your own writing.
Getting feedback from peers
You may get peer feedback that doesn’t give details on ways you can improve, or you may feel that the feedback is inaccurate.
When you don’t get enough valuable feedback from peers
- You can consider the examples that other students created—what did other students do well, and what were some needed improvements that you saw? Use this to provide your own self-assessment of your work.
- Reach out to others and ask for the specific feedback you want. This may be your instructor, another peer student, or the Writing Center services.
When you get feedback that you disagree with
- Consider the student’s perspective—might others have this perspective? If you have found in your research or readings that the student is incorrect, you can ignore that feedback and move on. Otherwise, it could provide you with a counterargument that you wish to discuss within your paper or project.
- Consider if your perspective has areas that others may disagree with. Are there parts of your perspective that are weaker than others?
What to do with feedback from others
- First, do not take it as a personal insult about you or your work. Feedback allows you to consider new perspectives, see things you could have missed, and grow as an academic student.
- Feedback can sometimes be overwhelming or even confusing. The Decoding & Applying Feedback guide can help you to better understand specific writing feedback you get and will provide guides that can help you to improve specific writing issues.