John C. Wise
Director, Engineering Instructional Services
College of Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University
It is a well-accepted belief that the best way to really learn a new concept is to research and write about it. The higher-level thinking involved in sifting through information (“analysis” in Bloom’s taxonomy) and combining new data with existing knowledge (“synthesis” in Bloom) in a well-written essay or research paper requires cognitive effort that pays off in improved understanding. We may all agree that more writing in our courses is a good thing, but how can it be incorporated without increasing an already heavy investment of time in grading, especially if we want to include valuable feedback for each student? Calibrated Peer Review™ (CPR) is an online tool designed to take advantage of the positive effects of writing while mitigating the negative.
Review of CPR
CPR is based on the scientific model of writing, in which a researcher submits his or her work for blind review by peers and also participates as a reviewer for other researchers. In a typical CPR assignment, each student will generate a piece of writing and submit it to the CPR site. After all students have completed the writing phase, they enter a calibration phase. In calibration, each student reviews three samples of work related to the just-completed assignment. The scores they provide are compared to scores previously assigned by the professor. Later, grades assigned by students who are more similar to the professor in these calibrations will be more heavily weighted than others. After completing the calibration, students are presented with three anonymous writings to evaluate, followed by a final look at their own. Final grades for each CPR assignment are computed by the system with weightings set by the professor.
Anecdotal reports indicate that most student writing that is currently submitted for grading, particularly in the early undergraduate years, is usually of first-draft rather than final draft quality. CPR can be used to keep students on schedule with several drafts during the semester, and almost guarantee an improved product by the end of the semester with little increase in faculty workload. Difficult concepts can be addressed through short writing assignments as a method for learning, and writing ability should increase with use. The scoring and feedback pages keep the professor informed regarding each student’s performance, and this data may be used in ABET-style assessments.
A short overview/tour of CPR will be presented. The remainder of the workshop will be a simulation of CPR using hard-copy materials. This approach has the advantage of connecting the on-line process to a more concrete example, perhaps making it easier for participants to envision. As a follow-up to this style of workshop, each participant will be asked to participate in a CPR assignment online over the next two weeks, giving everyone both simulated and actual experience with the tool.
Statement of Learning Objectives
• The workshop participant will be able to describe the advantages of learning through writing.
• The workshop participant will be able to describe the peer-review process used by the online tool, Calibrated Peer Review™.
The workshop participant will become aware of the possibility of participating in a network of colleges sharing online engineering writing assignments through CPR.