2017 Senior Challenge Academy: Week 5

In preparation for next week’s 2017 College & Career Senior Challenge, over 25 students from DC public and public charter schools from across the city have been gathering every Wednesday evening at the Shaw Library to develop and refine their presentations. Part of the Senior Challenge Academy (SCA) involves splitting these students into groups to practice their pitches, and last week we were reminded of just how important peer-to-peer feedback is in the learning process. Despite the fact that Washington, DC is a relatively small city, at just over 68 square miles, there are few moments when students from different schools have the opportunity to come together in academic collaboration. During the first few weeks of the SCA, students were sometimes shy and reticent to present in front of their peers. Last week, however, we witnessed an inspiring moment after students self-selected to stand in front of the entire group and present, inviting comments and feedback from the other seniors.

Peer-to-peer feedback is an important element of learning, and we continue to see the value of this approach in our work. A 2015 Edutopia article notes, “Students benefit from peer feedback in that they are able to teach others about the tasks and provide feedback that they would consider relevant.” This rings especially true for the students participating in the SCA, as the feedback is coming from peers outside of their individual school groups. The Edutopia article continues by highlighting that “peer feedback also gives students an opportunity to have their voices heard, and to listen to each other.” There is something so powerful in watching students from schools across the city give positive and constructive feedback to one another.

Furthermore, peer-to-peer feedback in the argumentative writing process has been an integral part of the One World Program for a decade, and its value goes beyond the finished essay. A 2004 research paper on using peer feedback in writing notes, “...once the peer response process is underway, the writer’s perception of the value of the enterprise is likely to change if she begins to receive useful feedback, or finds that commenting on essays is helping her to be more critical of her own writing.” Watching the SCA students share with one another made it very clear that they value the feedback from their peers, despite not necessarily knowing one another.

Last week’s SCA demonstrated the importance (and impact) of peer-to-peer feedback, and it has made us even more confident in how we incorporate this activity into our programs. Additionally, this type of learning helps prepare students for college and career success, as communication and collaboration become more prevalent in their lives. A 2013 blog post from Arizona State University suggests that professors incorporate the “RISE model" (Reflect, Inquire, Suggest, Elevate) by Emily Wray. Aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy, this model uses prompts to encourage students to “reflect, then build their constructive analysis through inquiry, [and] provide suggestions to help elevate each other’s work” (Wray, 2013). Through prompting, students critically engage with each other on four different levels, transforming vague responses to meaningful feedback.

We continue to observe the numerous positive outcomes (both socially and academically) of this type of learning, and are excited to see the final presentations next Wednesday. We hope you can join us for the 2017 College & Career Senior Challenge and help us celebrate the efforts of our students over the last six weeks. This free event is open to the public, and tickets are still available. RSVP today!

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