A large part of what I am advocating in my OU project is that the learning process can be much improved if students are encouraged to work collaboratively. When this goes well, students will not only work towards a joint outcome, which in itself can be a valuable process. Along the way they will exchange information and opinions on each others’ ideas. They will express their anxieties, their wishes and their doubts and they will seamlessly and continuously move between all of these aspects of the process. They will test ideas against each other and will arrive at some sort of a consensus.
So how does it feel to be taking some of this medicine myself? When sharing my work I have had some very helpful comments about:
- my peers’ ability to access my materials and the need for me to use platforms which are readily accessible
- whether I was getting my message across
- the relevance of my topic to my peers
- passages which could have been better expressed
Does the medicine work?
On the whole, the process has been formative, helpful and has forced me to clarify exactly what my aims were. The tone of comments has been very professional. That is very important. When someone gives me feedback, I am almost subconsciously asking myself if I should be influenced by their views. Does this peer sound like someone who has similar values and experiences to me? Is it an advantage of online collaboration that such personal judgments are pushed more to the background than would probably be the case in face-to-face teaching? I think I have detected a tendency not to argue with peers’s comments. Is that a problem? I don’t think so.
And we are also doling out the medicine too. I think evaluating a peer’s work is every bit as challenging as marking and giving feedback in my role as a tutor. You are conscious that your peer shares the same anxieties as you. You don’t want to give excessive praise and you want to avoid concentrating on negative comments. At the same time, unlike the tutor who has a higher position in the feedback hierarchy, you can’t be sure that you are applying the right criteria.
Has the medicine worked for you?