Peer Presentation Feedback

Peer Presentation Feedback

I teach an EAP module which focusses on language and study skills. It’s aimed at first-semester students starting an English Studies degree where English is a foreign language for almost all students. They’re at the B2+ level.

In a 15-week semester, we spend the first five weeks or so looking at what makes a good academic presentation in English. We cover topics such as narrowing down a topic to make a point, logically building up an argument, linking pieces of information, maintaining the audience’s attention, formal langauge and appropriate use of register, body language and eye contact, volume and pacing, using sources effectively, and lots of sub-skills and langauge features that are relevant for presentations. In the second 2/3 of the semester, students give presentations (in groups of 3) on a topic of their choice related to the English-speaking world, and we discuss feedback altogether so that the others can learn from what was good or could be improved in the presentation they have watched.

This blog post describes my journey through trialling different ways of getting the best feedback to fulfil our overall learning aim. 

(Note: Don’t worry, we also use class time to practise other study skills pertaining to listening and speaking!)

1. ‘Who would like to give some feedback?’

I have experimented with various ways of getting audience members to give feedback. When I first started teaching on this module, I used to ask after the presentation ‘Who would like to give some feedback?’, which was usually qualified by saying something like ‘Remember the points we’ve covered on what makes a presentation good.’ Usually, only a few people commented, and they focussed mainly on the good things. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to highlight what students have done well! But the overall goal of having students give presentations was that we could constructively critique all aspects of these presentations. I had hoped that we could use these ‘real’ examples to review what we had learnt about good academic presentations. So this approach wasn’t as effective as I had hoped.

2. Feedback questions

It seemed that requiring students to keep in mind all of the features of a good academic presentation was asking a bit too much. And so, together with a colleague, I drew up a list of questions students could ask themselves about the presentation. Example questions include: Was all of the information relevant? Was the speech loud and clear, and easy to understand? Students were given the list before the first presentation and instructed to bring it each week to help them to give presentation feedback. Most people brought them most of the time. Still, students were pretty selective about which questions they wanted to answer, and (tactfully?) avoided the points where it was clear that the presentation group needed to improve. So we still weren’t getting the full range of constructive feedback that I was hoping for.

3. Feedback sandwich

sandwich.jpgIt was clear to me that students wanted to be nice to each other. We were giving feedback in plenum, and no one wanted to be the ‘bad guy’. This is a good thing per se, but it meant that they were slightly hindered in giving constructive criticism and thus achieving the learning aims I had set for the course. So, before the first presentation, I set up an activity looking at how to give feedback politely and without offending the individual presenters. We explored the psychological and linguistic concepts behind ‘face saving’ and how people may become defensive if they feel their ‘face’ is attacked, and then psychologically ‘block out’ any criticism – so the feedback doesn’t help them improve their presentation; nor does it make for good student-student relationships! I explained the idea of a ‘feedback sandwich’ in which the positive comments form the bread, and the negative comments are the filling. This idea is said to ease any feelings of ‘attack’, thus making the feedback more effective. Students embraced this idea, and did their best to ‘sandwich’ their feedback. Overall, this was a helpful step in moving the class feedback towards waht I thought would be most effective for the learning aims.

4. Feedback tickets

Since I noticed we still weren’t always getting feedback on all aspects of the presentation, a colleague and I decided to make ‘feedback tickets’, each with one question from the list we had previously prepared. The tickets were handed out before a presentation, and each student was then responsible for giving feedback on that point. Combined with the ‘sandwich’ approach, this overall worked pretty well. The minor drawbacks were that sometimes the presenters had really done a good job on a certain aspect and there wasn’t much ‘filling’ to go with the ‘bread’; however, sometimes the ‘filling’ was important, but students seemed to counteract their constructive criticisms by emphasizing their lack of importance, especially compared to the positive comments. For me, though, the major downside to using these tickets was the time factor. Running through a set of ~15 feedback tickets (and feedback sandwiches!) after each presentation was productive for students’ presentation skills, but ate into the time in class that should have been used for practising other oral/aural skills. In extreme cases, with two 30-minute presentations plus Q&A in a 90-minute lesson, we simply ran out of time for feedback! Those poor presenters got no feedback on their presentations, and we as class were not able to learn anything from the example they had delivered.

5. Google forms

google form.JPG

Actually, I first used Google Forms to collect feedback after one of these lessons where our time was up before we’d got through the plenary feedback round. I copied all of the feedback questions into a Google form (using the ‘quiz’ template) and emailed the link to the students. I was positively surprised by the results! Perhaps aided by the anonymity of the form, students used the ‘sandwich’ idea very effectively – suitably praising good aspects of the presentation, and taking time to explain their criticisms carefully and specifically. Wow – helpful feedback! I printed out the feedback to give to the presenters, along with my own written feedback, and also picked out a couple of poignant comments to discuss in plenum in the next lesson. Right from the off, this way of collecting and giving feedback seemed very effective, both in terms of time taken and achieving learning aims. It seemed presenters had some time to reflect on their own performance and were able to join in the feedback discussions more openly, and focussing on just a couple of key aspects meant it was time-eficient, too. I immediately decided to use the Google form for the next couple of weeks, and have continued to find it extremely useful. Sadly, we’re at the end of our semester now, so these are just very short-term observations. Still, I’m encouraged to use the online form in future semesters.

Just goes to show how important reflecting on our classroom practices can be!

I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences, or can share other inspirational ways of collecting feedback on presentations? I’d love to hear from you!

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7 thoughts on “Peer Presentation Feedback

  1. Hi Clare 🙂 I do something similar to the feedback forms in my class, but I only use 6 different questions (ie grouped around 6 topics): that way 2 students each get the same question so they don’t feel so isolated about giving potentially negative feedback. It has worked really well orally and generally the students are very good at using the sandwich technique with very little advance input from me.
    BUT I’m about to start a PhD looking at the ICT tools that could help with peer feedback. I’ve thought about using padlets, or perhaps a typeform with a rating scale for each aspect to be commented on. Perhaps I could get my school to pay for a trip to visit you 😉 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Working in pairs is a good idea. At schools here they do something called ‘think-pair-share’, so students first get to ‘check’ with their partner if their thoughts are along the same line. I can imagine that’s also helpful for feedback.
      In general, our classrooms here tend to be a bit low-tech, so using any kind of online form has to be done as homework … but do feel free to visit anyway 🙂 Would be great to see you! Cx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, I don’t actually get them to “think-pair-share”, just to have 2 students, dotted around doing it simultaneously. It might be more reassuring to discuss it in pairs you’re right.
        We’re very low-tech here too, but all the students have smartphones so I try to use software with easy-to-use free apps. I need to keep investigating.
        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t tell you how timely this is. I’ve had students do two presentations in the new term and have really struggled to get or give anything close to useful feedback. This may be help, I’ll certainly be trying these ideas out. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a timely post for me as well!

    I’m currently working on an action research project with my own learners in a dedicated presentation skills course with adult learners at B2 to C1 level. I’m hoping to give a presentation of my own on the issues I’ve been covering later this year.

    I’m still working on it, of course, but one thing I might add for those who are new to teaching this subject is that it can be better to divide those who are not presenting into ‘assessors’ and ‘audience’. This means that they are not undertaking both roles at the same time, which can over-burden them.

    In the system I’m using now, the audience is just that – an audience. They can make notes if they wish, especially if they want to ask questions in the Q&As session, but otherwise their role is to sit, watch, and be informed, entertained, or persuaded.

    After the Q&As, the presenters leave the room while the peer assessors discuss the marks they would give – I provide them with a rubric for this – and agree on a combined grade. This means that nobody is seen as too harsh or too lenient. Only after the peer assessors have given their own feedback do I then provide mine.

    Some students who are not quite so gifted in presenting have nonetheless made invaluable contributions by asking great questions when they’re in the audience and also by providing really useful, meaningful feedback to their classmates – they will even sometimes spot things I’ve missed.

    This system works much better than others I’ve used in the past, and my objectives in the study I’m doing are to see how closely the students’ grade compares with my own, and to what extent the peer feedback process should contribute toward a student’s overall grades for the course.

    I’ve also used a portfolio system in my presentations courses for the past couple of years, and this really helps, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks for this! I like the idea of splitting up the non-presenting students’ roles. Right now I always tell them, “remember you ‘ve got two jobs as an audience in this class” … most seem to manage, but maybe you’re right and it’s overburdening them. I mean, even as an assessor, I find I ave to remind myself to listen out for langaeg mistakes instead of enjoying the informative talks! Good idea! I’ll make a note to try this next time I teach the module! And do let me know how you get on with your research – I’d love to hear the results!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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