Part 9: Spring 2019 Labs

160 Peer Review in Canvas – 02.22.2019

Canvas student peer review helps students see more perspectives and reflect on their work. At the February 22, 2019 Active Teaching Lab, 17 participants swapped tips and techniques for peer review over coffee and bagels. Attendees discussed best practices for setting up and managing peer review assignments in Canvas, approaches to making the process simple yet effective, and lessons learned for fostering productive in- and out-of-classroom peer feedback.


  • Share expectations with students. Provide examples of high-, medium- and low-quality student work, use significant comment starters as a launching point, and walk through the peer-review process together before assigning individual reviews. Students trained in how to review a peer’s work are better equipped to move from superficial reactions to providing informative, thorough feedback (Nilson, 2003).
  • For more robust, targeted student feedback, use rubrics to help students identify and compare desired (and undesired) components in their own work. For the instructor, single-point rubrics work well for grading peer reviews.
  • Shoot for small groups, not pairs. Multiple sets of eyes on work provides greater depth, breadth, and helps identify issues better than a single person (even the instructor!) can (Rubin, 2006).
  • Focus student attention on feedback rather than logistics by showing them how to leave (and check) feedback in the Canvas DocViewer, how to use rubrics in Canvas, and how to navigate the Canvas peer review tool.
  • Allow multiple modes of feedback to let students make the most of their strongest communication skills. For example, structure an activity so that students provide written or recorded feedback online and/or then debrief in person. The online space allows students to take time to ponder and revisit, work on a flexible schedule in a familiar space, refer to resources, and organize their thoughts, while the in-person conversation takes advantage of face-to-face communication that often can soften what would otherwise seem like harsh criticism. 
  • Help students see the real-world benefits of peer review; research shows self-generated utility value increases student success far better than instructor-provided information (Canning & Harackiewicz, 2015).

For more information on peer review in Canvas, visit the session’s activity sheet.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.), room 120. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

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Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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