Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Improved learning by peer reviewing field reports
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The purpose of this study is to assess the learning effect of introducing a peer review exercise in a fieldwork based bachelor course where the end product is a written scientific report based on the data sampled during fieldwork. The review exercise was designed to accommodate some learning challenges observed over the years the course has been running and consisted of; first an evaluative judgement of an older student report with a similar topic as they had chosen to work with, and second a presentation of the reviewed report to the co-students in class. Afterwards the students were asked to assess how the review exercise met these challenges by a set of eight reflective statements. The reviews were categorized as balanced, neutral or critical based on the given-comments, and the majority of reviews were in the balanced group. The choice of report to review clearly influenced the type of given-comments. The sparse data in this study based on 20 bachelor students, might indicate that reviewers who provided only critical comments didn’t necessarily find it easier to start writing their own report afterwards. Regardless of types of comments given, the majority of students felt that the review exercise improved their writing competence and the confidence to start writing their own report. Further findings of the study indicate that the students felt that the review exercise made them motivated and engaged for fieldwork and report work, and made them better prepared for fieldwork. The presentations gave them broad comprehension of the different topics and an increased interest for the other students’ topics. More than half of the students found it easier to connect sampled data with lectured theory after doing the review exercise, and felt they had changed an idea they used to have on their subject. The positive feedbacks from the students indicate a gained intrinsic motivation in the students and that they have utilized a high level of cognitive processes during the review exercise. The perception of the experience gained from the review exercise observed by the course responsible corresponded with the findings in the study. According to the course responsible, the average quality of the written reports reflected a higher writing skill and higher-level science in each report than before. The result of this study shows the benefits of introducing peer reviewing in field-based bachelor courses where students have limited experience with fieldwork and in writing scientific reports.