I have been doing a good deal of reading research on peer assessment lately, especially studies that look at differences and benefits/drawbacks of doing peer assessment face to face , orally, and through writing–both asynchronous writing in online environments (e.g., comments on a discussion board) and synchronous writing online (e.g., in text-based “chats”). I summarized a few studies on oral vs. written peer assessment in this blog post, and then set out a classification structure for different methods of peer assessment in this one.
Here, I summarize a few studies I’ve read that look at written, online, asynchronous peer feedback. In another post I’ll summarize some studies that compare oral, face to face with written, online, synchronous (text-based chats). I hope some conclusion about the differences and the benefits of each kind can be drawn after summarizing the results.
1. Tuzi, F. (2004) The impact of e-feedback on the revisions of L2 writers in an academic writing course, Computers and Composition 21, 217–235. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2004.02.003
This study is a little outside of my research interest, as it doesn’t compare oral feedback to written (in any form). Rather, the research focus was to look at how students revised essays after receiving e-feedback from peers and their teacher. Oral feedback was only marginally part of the study, as noted below.
20 L2 students (students for whom English was an additional language) in a first-year writing course at a four-year university participated in this study. Paper drafts were uploaded onto a website where other students could read them and comment on them. The e-feedback could be read on the site, but was also sent via email to students (and the instructor). Students wrote four papers as part of the study, and could revise each paper up to five times. 97 first drafts and 177 revisions were analyzed in the study. The author compared comments received digitally to later revised drafts, to see what had been incorporated. He also interviewed the authors of the papers to ask what sparked them to make the revisions they did.
Tuzi combined the results from analyzing the essay drafts and e-feedback (to see what of the feedback had been incorporated into revisions) with the results of the interviews with students, to identify the stimuli for changes in the drafts. From these data he concludes that 42.1% of the revisions were instigated by the students themselves, 15.6% from e-feedback, 148.% from the writing centre, 9.5% from oral feedback (from peers, I believe), and for 17.9% of the revisions, the source was “unknown.” He also did a few finer-grained analyses, showing how e-feedback fared in relation to these other sources at different levels of writing (such as the punctuation, word, sentence, paragraph), in terms of the purpose of the revision (e.g., new information, grammar) and more. In many analyses, the source of most revisions was the students themselves, but e-feedback ranked second some (such as working at the sentence, clause and paragraph levels, and adding new information). Oral feedback was always low on the list.
In the “discussion” section, Tuzi states:
Although e-feedback is a relatively new form of feedback, it was the cause of a large number of essay changes. In fact, e-feedback resulted in more revisions than feedback from the writing center or oral feedback. E-feedback may be a viable avenue for receiving comments for L2 writers. Another interesting observation is that although the L2 writers stated that they preferred oral feedback, they made more e-feedback-based changes than oral-based changes.
True, but note that in this study oral feedback was not emphasized. It was something students could get if they wanted, but only the e-feedback was focused on in the course. So little can be concluded here about oral vs. e-feedback. To be fair, that wasn’t really the point of the study, however. The point was simply to see how students use e-feedback, whether it is incorporated into revisions, and what kinds of revisions e-feedback tends to be used for. And Tuzi is clear towards the end: “Although [e-feedback] is a useful tool, I do not believe it is a replacement for oral feedback or classroom interaction …”. Different means of feedback should be available; this study just shows, he says, that e-feedback can be useful as one of them.