Teaching with Moodle

How to deal with a large group of students

 
Picture of Viktorija Florjančič
How to deal with a large group of students
 

I'm starting an e-learning course with more that 100 participants. Last year students worked individually (writing diaries) and in small groups (preparing different small projects). I assessed all asignments, but now I'm affraid that I wouldn't be able to to all assessments. So I was thinking to use P2P review. I wonder if any of Moodlers would like to share her/his experience?

So I'm looking for the possibility where students upload their work, that others assess/comment this work and all points are collected in the gradebook.

Thank you.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: How to deal with a large group of students
Group Plugin developers

Hi Viktorija,

Can you please tell if the course/class is entirely online, i.e. distance education, or it is part of a blended course, i.e. students at a school, university, or college? In my experience, starting off peer-review sessions face to face tends to work better and faster than online. Once they've understood what it is exactly that you want them to do, the processes can be transferred online.

Also, how much experience do the students have with peer-review and peer-feedback? If they have little or no experience, it'll be necessary to assess and give feedback on students' feedback for the first few assignments: Students don't learn how to do peer-review competently overnight!

Re: students grading each other, peer-review is most effective when it's used for formative assessment (feedback that helps students to develop their skills and do better work in subsequent learning activities and assignments). It may be counter-productive if used for summative assessment, i.e. We shouldn't ask students to give each other grades, as this raises all kinds of practical and ethical issues and makes the grades unreliable.

In practical terms, I've used the Workshop module and a peer-review Assignment module plugin for an earlier version of Moodle (no longer maintained). They have their pros and cons depending on what it is exactly that you want students to do, i.e. the submission and feedback processes. I recommend creating some peer-review activities with a variety of modules to see what best matches your learning intentions for your students. Also, be prepared to be flexible, compromise, and think creatively/outside the box - it probably won't work out the way you originally intended. For example, I've found that using discussion forums for peer review can be more appropriate for some cohorts of students and some types of peer-review activities. When I want to put the emphasis on developing individual writing styles and/or on vicarious learning (students learning from each other and each others' interactions during feedback), the open nature of forums makes this much easier.

Just my €0.02!

I hope this helps smile

 
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Picture of Viktorija Florjančič
Re: How to deal with a large group of students
 

Wau, Matt, thank you. You opened me many issues I'd really need to think about. I'm really grateful for this.

The course in taught at university and it is taught online. Last year I experienced  weekly video conferences short meetings that were really welcomed and they motivated students a lot.

Maybe I'll use P2P review in the process of improvement their work and not for summative assessment. And forums are probably the best activity for P2P review, yes. As much as I'm thinking about students activities, more it happen that I'm working more and more. Because, you know, you need to check all their work and give them feedback. They really appreciate my feedback, but with so many students I'd become a professional feedbacker wink

Thank you Matt, again. I'll report how it would go wink

 
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Matt Bury
Re: How to deal with a large group of students
Group Plugin developers

Glad you found it helpful smile

Yes, online feedback can turn into a full-time job. It's important to think about strategies and techniques for reducing your workload and making assessment sustainable. This is a major issue in online learning because formative assessment (feedback) is one of the main factors that affects learning outcomes and students' perception of high quality courses.

Thankfully, there's a lot of ideas and information about online formative assessment out there and peer-review/assessment/feedback is a core strategy (but rarely done well, in my opinion). I recommend searching for ideas in research, conference presentations, etc. in your students' particular field/subject to find some appropriate ideas (Ideas that work with students from one field may not work so well with students from another).

An important point to note, that seems to run through a lot of the research I've read on the subject is that peer-review/assessment/feedback is more beneficial to reviewers than reviewees. In other words, reviewing and assessing others' work appears to be a powerful learning strategy and well worth investing time and effort in.

A common example activity to get inexperienced students started is:

  1. Gather 3 - 5 written compositions by former students of varying quality.
  2. Present them to your students and ask them to put the compositions in order of quality; high to low.
  3. Most importantly: Put the students into pairs or small groups and ask them to discuss why they think each composition is better or worse than the others.
  4. Ask the students to collate their ideas/reasoning into some helpful advice, e.g. a list of "do's and don'ts," for writing high quality compositions. (Please note that some aspects of high quality writing can be difficult, if not impossible, to put into words so encourage students to allow for some "fuzzy" criteria such as creativity, originality, overall impact, etc.)
  5. They can then use this as a simple rubric for reviewing/assessing/giving feedback on each others' compositions. This ensures that students fully understand the rubrics and criteria that they're using.

Make sure that students know what the complete learning activity is, from start to finish, and your rationale behind it so that they understand why you're asking them to do it. This way, you can avoid some of the objections that students often have about reviewing/assessing each others' work - They often believe that this is the sole responsibility of their teacher. It's your (often difficult) task to persuade them of the benefits of peer-review/assessment/feedback.

If students demand grades or it's the only way to get them to do the work (a common issue!), I recommend grading their rubrics and/or grading their peer-feedback. Also, students naturally tend to focus on more local (as opposed to global) aspects of writing and subject matter because they don't yet have a coherent global understanding. (If they did, they wouldn't need to study it!) With this in mind and if it's possible, I recommend giving some global feedback either to individual students or, more efficiently, as group or whole cohort feedback for the common, essential issues in their work that they need to address.

In short, it's a lot of work to set up peer-review programmes and ideally they should be implemented and coordinated throughout entire departments and programmes in order to give students some continuity between courses (and to provide support for teaching staff and students if and when things don't go according to plan). But, once they're successfully up and running, it's as if the students teach themselves with a little guidance from teaching and support staff.

I hope this makes sense!

Matt smile

 
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Picture of Viktorija Florjančič
Re: How to deal with a large group of students
 

I'm really glad that I opened this issue. You posted so many useful thought that I have to think about. Thank you so much.

 
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Matt Bury
Re: How to deal with a large group of students
Group Plugin developers

Happy to help and good luck smile

 
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