A Student’s Take on Peer Review

In this summative assignment in a freshmen Honors English Composition class, students were asked to review their papers and assignments from the course, and determine 1-3 specific areas of growth or improvement, as well as specific classroom activities, assignments, etc. that contributed to the improvement. Students were then asked to demonstrate this in a creative work in any format/mode, and present the project to the class. A goal of the project was to reflect on one’s learning in a creative style which reflects both the learning itself and the personality or talents of the student.

Emily Tran created this awesome reflective video on her experiences with peer review.

Lesley Instructors Publish in Journal “Literacy Research and Instruction”

Leah Van Vaerenewyck, a Lesley doctoral student, Valerie Shinas and Barbara Steckel, two literacy instructors from Lesley’s Graduate School of Education, have co-authored the article Sarah’s Story: One Teacher’s Enactment of TPACK+ in a History Classroom in the journal Literacy Research and Instruction.

The article focuses on the case study of one secondary History teacher and her approach to using technology in developing and supporting a socially-situated community of learners. The authors cite research suggesting teachers do not integrate technology within literacy or disciplinary curriculum at high levels (to support higher level cognitive skills, for example). They argue that to prepare students for higher education and employment, students must learn to think like scholars in the disciplines in which they study. For example, history students should be able to analyze primary documents, conduct research and synthesize information across various sources to draw conclusions. They argue that strategic and principled use of technology can support the development and maintenance of a community of learners focused on higher-level skill acquisition.

tpack visualization

TPACK, or Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge, is a framework built on Lee Shulman’s PCK (Pedagogical Content Knowledge). TPACK suggests the incorporation of technology with pedagogical content knowledge can produce more effective teaching. The authors suggest an expansion of the TPACK framework to include a sociocultural component and use this case study as empirical evidence to support an update to the TPACK model (TPACK+). They set out to “examine how sociocultural-oriented teacher knowledge, skills and beliefs intersect with TPACK in ways that leverage digital tools to create and sustain vibrant learning communities” (Van Vaerenewyck et al, 2017). Their observations showed strong evidence supporting this updated conceptualization of TPACK. The instructor’s use of learning technologies enabled the students to engage in authentic disciplinary discourse within socially situated learning experiences. The instructor was able to create a community of learners both within and beyond the boundaries of the physical classroom. Students engaged collaboratively in sophisticated ways, demonstrating that learning can be enhanced when embedded in socially situated experiences.

The authors call for further research examining in-service teachers’ skills and knowledge in relation to technology-integrated instruction to provide additional empirical support for their claim that the TPACK framework must be expanded.

Van Vaerenewyck, L. M., Shinas, V. H., & Steckel, B. (2017). Sarah’s Story: One Teacher’s Enactment of TPACK+ in a History Classroom. Literacy Research and Instruction56(2), 158-175.

The Hidden Element in Teaching: Modeling Expert Thinking

Instructors often direct students to produce assignments with very good support and guidance, such as examples of past work, a set of criteria or rubric, and detailed instructions or guiding questions. Less common is giving guidance for how students should think as they approach a task. Every discipline has a specific approach to thinking within the field [1]. For example, historians use evidence differently than other disciplines. They must weigh evidence that leads to different interpretations of historical events. They need to learn how to identify, select and use evidence in arguments [2]. In the study of literature, there are particular ways of analyzing literary texts. Novices (students), however; approach academic tasks differently than experts (instructors). Without specific guidance, they tend to use ways of thinking from earlier educational experiences, work or other life experiences. These approaches tend to be ill-suited for the discipline-specific, higher-level approaches required. The key challenge in teaching this type of thinking may be to make thinking visible.

Below are two examples from online courses at Lesley that use voice-over videos to model how the instructor approaches a task, focusing on the thinking that guides them. In the first video, instructor Wendy Hasenkamp shows students how to review a scientific article. This is from the course “Meditation and the Brain: Intro to Contemplative Neuroscience”. In the second video, instructor Lisa Spitz gives a detailed example of how one might work through a design challenge in the course “Typography I”, part of the new online “Design for User Experience” program.

Example 1


Example 2

This type of expert modeling is not the only way to support more expert-like thinking. Another example is called the “process worksheet” [3]. This can be a simple, text-based scaffold to thinking; it provides learners with steps they need to take to solve a problem or approach a learning task. It might show a series of phases with key rules of thumb or advice for how they might approach the task.

One reason that modeling expert thinking is less common as a support for students is that we often forget how we came to be experts and, as a result, it can be difficult to tease apart the details of how we approach our disciplines. This is sometimes called “the blindness of expertise”. Once we review how we approach a task, we can begin to see details that might help guide students.

For more information about modeling expertise in teaching, please contact John McCormick: jmccormi@lesley.edu.


[1] Meyer, J., & Land, R. (2003). Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge: Linkages to ways of thinking and practising within the disciplines (pp. 412-424). Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.

[2] Grim, V., Pace, D., & Shopkow, L. (2004). Learning to use evidence in the study of history. New directions for teaching and learning, 2004(98), 57-65.

[3] Nadolski, R. J., Kirschner, P. A., & Merriënboer, J. J. (2005). Optimizing the number of steps in learning tasks for complex skills. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(2), 223-237.

Student Peer Review Research and Practice: A Cross-University Collaboration

A team of faculty, staff and students presented our research on student peer review at Community of Scholars Day: “Critique Creates Community? Effects of Peer Review and Metacognitive Strategies”. Inspired by the culture of critique at Lesley’s College of Art and Design (LUCAD) and with the shared goal of improving students’ analytical writing and other assignments, three faculty gathered a team to investigate peer review methods using a research-based approach. Our background research on peer review and the results of empirical research with our own students were closely aligned, revealing the many benefits of peer review that can be achieved under specific conditions. As a result of our inquiry, we have been revising our peer review processes, excited by the improvements seen thus far and the possibility for enhanced skills in many areas. Below, we will discuss key components and benefits of the peer review protocol we first drafted in the fall of 2016 and updated this year.

Our peer review protocol is driven by the Dialogic Feedback Cycle, which, importantly, includes extensive use of metacognitive learning strategies. Critical to the peer review process is the dynamic between students’ individual (internal) processing and pairs’ external collaborative processing (see Figure 1 below). Students work both individually and with peers in order to reflect on and revise their work.  Throughout this process, the writer drives the process, first by identifying their goals and requesting specific areas for feedback, and at the end, by explaining their choices for revising their work to the instructor.

Internal-External Dynamic of Peer Review process

Figure 1

Before engaging in peer review sessions, the instructor builds an environment that prepares students to participate in a committed way to this collaborative process (Step 1). This is achieved by discussing benefits and challenges; explaining and modeling peer review; and, most importantly, creating a trusting relationship among students.  Many students dislike or distrust the peer review process based on previous experience – including concerns that peers will not take their work seriously, or that they themselves will be unable to review peers’ work satisfactorily – so discussing students’ insecurities and establishing goals aids in building trust.  Peer review sessions focus on collaborative discussion, driven by the needs of the writer. (Step 2). Following peer review sessions, students determine the most valuable feedback to revise their work, and then explain to the instructor how they used feedback in their revisions. This closes the loop on the feedback cycle (Step 3).

There is a growing realization that self-evaluation skills should be a major goal of higher education (1). Learners’ ability to effectively evaluate their own work greatly enhances their success, both in school and later in the workplace (2).  Research on peer review in higher education and our own work with our students has shown a multitude of benefits, including improvements in collaborative skills; self-confidence, understanding of subject matter;  connection with peers; metacognition; and transfer of skills beyond the classroom (3). In our study, students reported a strong connection to peers from the peer review process, which may have implications for general education and retention. As we continue to apply research to our practice in the classroom, we invite interested faculty members to join us.

If you have questions about our work or would like to join us in our research and efforts to improve teaching practice via peer review, please contact Liv Cummins (lcummins2@lesley.edu).

Peer Review Team:
Research and Practice:

  • Summer Clark (Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, CLAS)
  • Liv Cummins (Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Drama, CLAS)
  • Kimberly Lowe (Assistant Professor of European History, CLAS)

Lesley student research: Casey Bogusz (CLAS)
Research lead for Lesley student research: Linda Pursley (Research and Assessment)
Background research support: John McCormick (eLIS):


  1. Boud, D., & Dochy, F. (2010). Assessment 2020. Seven propositions for assessment reform in higher education.
  2. Nicol, D. (2010). The foundation for graduate attributes: Developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Scotland.
  3. Pearce, J., Mulder, R., & Baik, C. (2009). Involving students in peer review: Case studies and practical strategies for university teaching.

TeachLive: Using Immersive Simulations to Practice Being a Teacher

Lesley Graduate School of Education (GSOE) faculty members Maureen Creegan Quinquis and Susan Patterson are wrapping up a successful year piloting TeachLive, a new immersive technology to prepare teachers for classroom experience. TeachLive (produced by Mursion) allows faculty to guide teacher candidates through several types of classroom situations from behavior management to practicing for parent-teacher conferences.

To learn more about this initiative, rewind to the summer of 2016.  Faculty members Maureen Creegan Quinquis and Susan Patterson, collaborating with GSOE Dean Jack Gillette wrote a grant proposal to the Department of Education (DESE) to allow Lesley students to gain access to a new technology tool that blends an immersive experience with live action by an actor. They wrote a proposal detailing the elements of teacher preparation that immersive virtual reality could most effectively address. Specifically, it provides students with experience in:

  • Classroom management
  • Parent-teacher/community relationships
  • Special education practice, particularly developing skills in differentiation
  • Job interview practice

Lesley was awarded the grant for equipment and services in August 2016, allowing GSOE to offer this experience for candidates in initial licensure programs. The equipment for the program is situated in a dedicated space in University Hall. Faculty schedule time with their students to interact with virtual students. Faculty introducing the tool have work closely with students on the preparation, the live simulation itself, and then debriefing after the simulation—all of which are essential components to learning from an immersive simulation.

In Fall 2016, Elementary/Creative Arts in Learning and Elementary and Middle/High School students began working with two of the simulation scenarios:

  1. a classroom setting of 8th graders with a variety of personalities and levels of knowledge;
  2. a parent teacher conference where the teacher is speaking with family members about their child’s progress or presenting a serious issue to the family.
image from http://www.rdmag.com/article/2016/04/simulation%E2%80%99s-teaching-moment

image from http://www.rdmag.com/article/2016/04/simulation%E2%80%99s-teaching-moment

The faculty members report that in addition to providing the space to “practice” with simulated students, there is a real benefit to being able to also pause the simulation to debrief specific moments or to step back from the situation.  As Professor Creegan Quinquis notes, “If I have a group of students who have been working on differentiated ways to present a lesson; they can all be in the room fishbowl style– they can watch each other to try and present the lesson. If the student candidate suddenly freezes– he/she can say “pause” and then ask for help or let someone else step in, or we can have a discussion right there in the room. You get to practice it several time.  What’s interesting is how much like real life it is. You have this experience of feeling like it’s really happening…The beauty of this is that they can make mistakes and have a safe space to practice” …before ever getting in front of real students.