Mayo's Clinics

Aug 17, 2022, 17:44
Mayo’s Clinic: Providing Feedback for Papers in Online Courses Part 2

Mayo’s Clinic: Providing Feedback for Papers in Online Courses Part 2

29 February 2016

Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, discusses how self-evaluation helps students become more objective about the quality of their online work. And, that objectivity carries over to peer-evaluation too.

By Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT 

Last month, we discussed a range of strategies for evaluating student papers including assignments, evaluation criteria and rubrics, short-hand markings or codes, and praise. This month we will talk about other techniques – self-assessment and peer-assessment – that change the process of evaluating student papers in online courses.

One of the most powerful evaluative techniques involves personal self-assessment. It has many advantages when students have minimal interaction with other students since it helps them focus beyond their experience of completing an assignment by looking objectively at their work. Ironically, when you use this process, students are often harsher on themselves than you might be. Historically, that has been the pattern although recent research indicates some millennials need and want praise for their work and are less interested in a fair and objective evaluation – they just want praise for their effort. 

In online settings, asking students to complete personal evaluations of their own work serves a number of purposes. First, it causes them to look more objectively at what they prepared (food, presentation, project or paper) and make some judgments about it. It promotes a more detached view of what they did since preparing an evaluation requires an objective view of the accomplishment. Second, it starts to help them notice errors in their work which can lead to improved work in the future. Learning to edit their writing or recognize the need for improvement in areas such as cooking and service can help students avoid repeating a mistake.

Third, the process encourages students – almost requires them – to review the assignment criteria. The only way students can make a fair appraisal of an assignment is to refer to the evaluative criteria and the assignment’s rubric. Fourth, it reduces the number of instances when students complain about their grades and criticize us for the lower-than-they-expected grade that we “gave them,” rather than realizing that we only recognize the quality of the work they submit. Instructors don’t “give grades.”

The process of evaluating their work can, therefore, make a difference in the process of evaluation. Asking them to evaluate other students’ submissions can also be effective.

Peer-Evaluation and Comments
A seldom used teaching strategy – asking students to evaluate the work of other students - can also be a productive activity for online courses. In public speaking classes and culinary courses, students are often invited to give each other feedback about what they did. That process is productive and effective for a number of reasons. In an online situation, providing written comments to another student has the same effect. 

First, asking them to decide what a person has done well or poorly invites a natural comparison with their own work and helps students understand the level of expected performance. Building that awareness of how their work compares with the work of others can trigger students to work a bit harder and try to bring their work to a higher level. It can improve their own assessment of their work. 

Second, it requires them to learn the criteria for evaluation if they are expected to evaluate a fellow student’s work fairly. It encourages objectivity and matching the assignment to the criteria. Including the evaluation criteria in your instructions and providing a check list ensures that the evaluation will be objective and fair. 

Finally, it expands a students’ awareness of the other students and their level of work in the course, which they may not know since it is an online course. The structure of an online course makes using this teaching technique easier since the students often do not know each other and can do the evaluation without feeling they have to be nice to a friend. 

Your Obligation
When you assign the task of self-assessment or peer-evaluation, it is essential that you provide clear instructions and that you comment on their evaluations. Especially in an online course, the information about what you expect them to do needs to be clearly described and well organized since they don’t have a chance to ask you questions in class. You might even provide a checklist and restate the evaluation criteria. 

Your feedback helps them improve their ability to notice what was good or needs improvement in their own work and the work of others. It also provides a standard to which they can aspire. Whether you include this assignment as part of the grade for the assignment or just make it mandatory with no impact on the grade, it can make a real difference in the depth of student learning and their ability to start assessing the quality of work that they submit.

Try these suggestions and see if they make a difference in your online teaching. If you have comments, feel free to send them to me and I will discuss them in future Mayo Clinics. Next month, we will move on to a new topic when we will start to focus on test taking and helping students review for tests. 

If you have suggestions for other topics or teaching practices you want to share, send them to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will include them in future Mayo Clinics.

Dr. Fred Mayo, CHE, CHT, is retired as a clinical professor of hotel and tourism management at New York University. As principal of Mayo Consulting Services, he continues to teach around the globe and is a regular presenter at CAFÉ events nationwide. 


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