Peer feedback - What are students telling each other?

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Conference Proceeding
SEFI Annual Conference 2011, 2011, pp. 437 - 444
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Copyright © 2015 SEFI. Accreditation bodies in various countries, universities and industry call for engineering students to develop professional skills associated with working in a group. We questioned whether students value the same skills and attributes in each other when working in a group. This paper reports on the analysis of the text of peer feedback comments provided by students in courses at two stages (second year and fourth year) of a four year undergraduate engineering degree program. Analysis of the peer feedback is based on the framework used by Miller [10] and investigates the amount of feedback provided, the type of feedback (ie whether it is positive, negative or neutral), the topic of the feedback and whether it could be classed as specific, since this is one of the identified characteristics of 'good' feedback. The topics covered by the feedback were determined by first coding the comments into themes and then grouping related themes into a category, rather than grouping the data into pre-determined categories. This process resulted in the following six categories: general evaluation, team attributes, generic professional skills, subject knowledge, ideas and problem solving, and reliability. While the feedback comments provided by students to each other covered a range of issues, the topics most commented on include: team related attributes such as whether the peer was helpful, made an effort and participated in group activities; generic professional skills such as communication, leadership and time management; and reliability including timeliness of peer submissions, and the value of the peer's contribution to completing the task. These characteristics align strongly with what employers are looking for in engineering graduates, and what accreditation bodies list as essential competencies of a graduate engineer, showing that students themselves recognise the value of these skills when they have to work with others.
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