Research corner

11th September 2015 at 01:00
Each week, TES Professional highlights education research conducted by teachers. This week, Matt Anderson, a modern foreign languages teacher at Great Torrington School in Devon, explains how he attempted to measure the impact of peer feedback on the quality of his students’ work

What?

The American educator Ron Berger has long suggested that high-quality peer feedback and redrafting of work leads to better achievement and greater learning gains. Matt Anderson, pictured below, decided to see if this was the case with his Year 9 Spanish class.

Why?

Mr Anderson had been introduced to Ron Berger’s work during a CPD session and was inspired by his video about “Austin’s Butterfly” (bit.ly/BergerAustinsButterfly). In it, Berger talks his students through a series of drawings of a butterfly by “Austin” that were improved by peer feedback. It led Mr Anderson to wonder whether his Year 9 students would be able to provide a sufficiently constructive critique of each other’s work for significant improvements to be made.

How?

Mr Anderson teaches two Year 9 classes of a similar ability. As part of a new unit about technology, he introduced new Spanish phrases and words to both classes, and taught students how to pronounce them. Both classes then wrote and delivered a speech on what they had learned. One class was asked to prepare and practise the speech individually, the other in pairs. In the paired class, each student had to give their partner specific and helpful feedback about the pronunciation of the words. The student who had delivered the speech then gave it again, making the suggested improvements. This process was repeated five times.

The results

Mr Anderson found that the second group, who had received constructive peer critique on redrafting their speeches, significantly improved their Spanish pronunciation of the key phrases and words, compared with the students who worked individually.

The impact

Mr Anderson had worried that a potentially chaotic classroom atmosphere caused by his Year 9s practising speeches and delivering feedback would prevent significant learning gains from being made. This small experiment showed him that this was not the case, and he will be sharing the ideas of critique and redrafting with other MFL teachers at the school.

To find out more about the project, email Matt Anderson at manderson@gts.devon.sch.uk

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