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Section A, the discussion board section, performed better overall on Test 1 and on the final exam. On Test 2, Section B very slightly outperformed Section A. We feel, however, that the project was beneficial, both for the students and for the instructor. It is evident that overall, the students believe that they benefited from the process of writing in their statistics course. The journal entries were typically longer than the discussion posts and replies, partly because the instructor set a required length for that assignment and not the other.
The required length may have allowed for more extended individual thinking. It provides the students with validation from their peers, building their confidence as statistical thinkers during the process of the actual thinking.
The survey data also shows an overall preference for the discussion board over the prompted journals. The instructor is planning on continuing to use the discussion board in future sections of Introduction to Statistics. The analysis of writing in the statistics course presented here shows that writing assignments prompt students to articulate their increasing understanding of statistics in several important ways. Both the journal entries and the discussion board posts show evidence that students are able to articulate some of the concepts they service essay writing are learning in the statistics course, to produce examples, and to connect those concepts to their own lives. In addition, the discussion board writing allows students to interact and to negotiate meaning in a social context, which may further their learning even service essay writing more. Students also feel that the discussion board assignment helps them learn the material. Because writing in the statistics course appears to help students learn, it would seem important to continue to find ways to integrate writing into statistics instruction and to further evaluate its effectiveness as a pedagogical tool. The essays consisted of a review of current literature to discuss the molecular involvement of cancer development or stem-cell growth. Following implementation of the peer reviews, we conducted a preliminary analysis of the pros and cons of using the two methods.
Student and instructor feedback suggested that the activity of peer review was generally perceived as valuable regardless of which approach was used. OPR was convenient and saved time and resources relative to FPR, but the technical drawbacks using the OPR approach made it challenging for some students to use. A subsequent investigation using alternative OPR programs that offer additional functionality is planned. Since it involves the joint construction of knowledge through discourse, it could be argued that peer assessment has its philosophical foundations in active learning (Piaget, 1971) and social construction (Vygotsky, 1962). Topping (1998) conducted a review of the literature and identified that peer assessment yields cognitive benefits in multiple ways: constructive reflection, increased time on task, attention to crucial elements of quality work, and greater sense of responsibility. Interestingly, these benefits were found for both the students who conducted the reviews and the students who received peer-reviewed comments.
As such, online peer review (OPR) is emerging as a popular alternative to the classic format, face-to-face peer review (FPR).
For example, OPR allows the implementation of peer review sessions without physical and time constraints (Rollinson, 2005), and longer peer review sessions may lead to higher quality peer reviews.
This report is intended to be a preliminary comparison of OPR service essay writing and FPR that precedes a more direct comparison in the future. Implementation of Face-to-Face and Calibrated Peer Review Just over 500 students participated in FPR as a component of their science essays for a second-year research methodologies course in the fall of 2010. Students were asked to write a literature review on the molecular environment that supports stem cell growth. Peer review was facilitated by TAs during two regularly scheduled tutorials. The remaining hour was devoted to the actual peer review activity. Students were assigned to groups of three by the TA, and each student reviewed two hard-copy abstracts that were between 150 and 300 words in length. Provided with a checklist to guide them through each peer review, students were asked to read, review, edit, and make comments on each abstract. After each review, peer dyads engaged in a 5-minute follow-up discussion order a paper online to clarify any unclear comments. Finally, students were asked to fill out evaluation forms for both peer reviewers to ensure that students contributed constructive feedback. The second checkpoint required students to have completed a rough draft of their essay with a maximum of 2000 words. The format of the second checkpoint was essentially the same as the first checkpoint except that in lieu of the initial workshop hour, more time was allocated for reading and reviewing the longer drafts.
Students were asked to write a literature review on the molecular involvement of cancer development. Three hundred and forty- eight students participated in both checkpoints for this assignment. The first two checkpoints required students to submit short early drafts: a 350 word outline for the first checkpoint and a 500 word draft for the second checkpoint. After submitting their own drafts, students then evaluated low, mediocre, and excellent exemplar essays that the instructor included. A checklist and guidelines were provided to assist the peer reviewers. Once the deadline passed for this review period, the program revealed the results of the reviews along with all of the comments that were provided by the reviewers. Discussion and Future Avenues of Research Overall, the use of peer review to improve science essay writing was positively perceived by most students, regardless of the format. This study was not meant to be a formal evaluation and service essay writing comparison of the two approaches, so in this discussion, only anecdotal results are reported. Likewise, the large majority of OPR students said that receiving feedback was helpful in improving their essay writing.