November 3, 2015

The 3 Do’s and Don’ts of Peer Feedback

Elena Ontiveros
Two students discuss classwork together

As an educator, you’re a feedback expert. On a daily basis, you grade stacks of homework, think and act on your feet, and remain unscathed by spontaneous student outbursts. You’ve mastered the art of constructive feedback, and because you have an entire classroom of critics staring back at you, you’ve even learned how to accept some not-so-constructive responses.

When it comes to student writing, the use of correct grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary is indeed vital. However, knowing how to give and receive feedback is an equally important part of the creative process—one that often values emotional intelligence over academic achievement.

For your next writing project, consider asking students to act as author and audience by having them share and critique one another’s work. Not only will it encourage student interaction and strengthen social skills, but it will also give you the opportunity to grow their critical thinking skills and provide a way for students to further develop their own voices. It will likely be helpful to have a rubric of the assignment’s expectations and components for students to reference while reviewing their peers’ work, to make sure their assessments revolve around whether the assignment’s criteria were met.

3 Dos and Don’ts (So Students Mind Their P’s and Q’s)

To help students find the balance between subjective and objective feedback, put together a checklist that they can use for reference; one that gives them the chance to model the best practices you demonstrate day-to-day. A few guidelines to include for your students:


  • Come prepared. Review and assess the assignment in advance. If you wait until the last minute to read something, your first reaction might not be an accurate review. Take the time to read, absorb, and reflect on the assignment before giving feedback so you can separate facts from feelings.
  • Remember the goal. Keep the original assignment in mind when determining project quality. Does the writing reflect everything the teacher outlined? Are there any key requirements missing? Evaluate the details with the big picture in mind so your feedback addresses every aspect.
  • Respond with care. You’re reviewing something someone spent a lot of time on. Make your comments as thoughtful as their choices by being constructive, descriptive, positive, and supportive. Communicate the “why” behind your feedback to help the writer understand your perspective as the reader. Ask yourself, “Am I reviewing their work the way I’d want someone to review mine?”


  • Rely on your gut. Your initial thoughts may not be considering all factors. You may not like a certain word or character, but does it work with the concept as a whole? It’s important to gauge whether your reaction is emotional or impartial.
  • Make it personal. Try to avoid the word “I”, as in “I don’t like…” or “I prefer…” when delivering feedback. Remember to tie comments back to the original goal of the assignment; feedback should be based on the assignment, not personal preferences.
  • Do the rewriting. Rather than giving the writer specific ways to revise their piece, let them walk away and decide how they want to interpret your feedback. This will ensure that their voice is incorporated and reflected in any updates they make.

To take this lesson even further, have students give feedback on the feedback they’re received. Authors can voice which comments made the biggest impact and reviewers can get a sense of how to frame feedback in the future. It also allows you to see where everyone can use more practice, and how this specific collaboration is shaping their growth.

How do you teach the art of of feedback to your students? Share in the comments below!