This chapter reports on an instrument that was developed to formatively assess the quality of feedback that second language students give to one another in an online, anonymous, asynchronous learning environment. The Online Peer Feedback (OPF) Assessment was originally developed for a peer online writing center in Japan where student peer advisors jointly compose feedback for a client-writer. The OPF Assessment is composed of two rubrics: (1) a rubric that evaluates the initial feedback drafted by a peer advisor, and (2) a rubric that assesses the contribution that individual peer advisors make to the interactive process of constructing the final feedback for their client-writer. The chapter describes the assessment and discusses its potential uses in a variety of contexts as a formative tool to improve the quality of peer feedback and, ultimately, the writing proficiency of both givers and receivers of the feedback.
The Peer Online Writing Centre
The Peer Online Writing Centre (POWC) at Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan, started as a teacher-action research project when the first author, then a full-time teacher at the university, found face-to-face peer feedback to be failing in writing classrooms due to a lack of buy-in from students. Most students felt that their peers, as learners themselves, were not qualified to give advice on English writing. In order to address this issue, also corroborated in the second language writing literature (Nelson & Carson, 2006; Zhang, 1999), an online anonymous system was set up, whereby a group of paid student-workers use nondescriptive online aliases to work together in order to construct advice for other student-writers in a service not connected to formal classes. These students are hired as Peer Online Writing Advisors (POWAs). This acronym, which sounds like “power” in katakana Japanese, reinforces the idea that peer feedback does have merit. POWAs (PAs, for short) are not hired based on their writing proficiency, but rather on their eagerness to learn and help others. The POWC challenges and supports PAs by giving them a demanding work environment, and also extensive training and professional development. PAs work in groups, receive 20 hours of presemester training, and get weekly comments on their feedback from facilitators. Typically, a ratio of one teacher acting as a facilitator for every three PAs is maintained. Facilitators closely interact with PAs by reviewing, questioning, and commenting on final advice before it is sent to a writer.