There is considerable debate over the use of peer-review in MOOCs. I would argue that since MOOCs attract intrinsically motivated learners, the feedback given can be especially valuable. As a case in point, I offer a snippet from a final assignment I completed from a Match Education class on teacher coaching. The questions are in italics, my response is in plain text. The four peer reviewers comments are below. I received an average of the four scores, so my “grade” on this particular assignment was a 24 out of 25 points.
We would hypothesize that this coaching session suggests that Ms. McRookie is in the middle circle (i.e. “Skill B”) of skill acquisition represented in The Snowman Effect. Explain how the teacher’s behaviors suggest that she is in the middle “Skill B” acquisition loop.
Ms. McR has completed the mastery of her first effective teacher move and can now identify and correct student misbehavior. This completes the Skill A acquisition and mastery loop. Next, Mr. EC expresses concern that a larger instructional problem (Skill B) has manifested itself in the student practice domain of the Kraken. Mr. EC knows that once Ms. McR sees how she has mastered the first skill of time on task, she will master a second skill even faster. After paying a small amount of the fixed mindset tax, Ms. McR commits to beginning Skill B.
Mr. EC outlines the action steps needed on the next big takeaway and describes how Ms. McR should implement those action steps. Ms. McR immediately begins brainstorming with Mr. EC on how to improve her cold calling and turn her group discussion questions into stop and chats. This suggests that Ms. McR is engaged in Skill B acquisition and will work hard until she masters it before beginning the Skill C acquisition loop. Each subsequent skill acquisition and mastery loop should take less time because Ms. McR has seen the evidence of her growth mindset from her previous successes.
Mr. EC refines how Ms. McR cold calls. Instead of “Johnny, what was the first step?” He advises she use “What is the first step, Johnny?” Then Ms. McR goes from “I want everyone to write an explanation” to the more specific “Take 60 seconds to write in the box on the worksheet explain the steps in integrating polynomials.” Because of the success Ms. McR had in acquiring Skill A with Mr. EC, she is more optimistic and proactive in changing her teacher behavior. This suggests she will be able to master the moves of an effective teacher and change her name from Ms. McRookie to Ms. Effective Coach in a short amount of time.
peer 1 → The Author got all the technical details of the best practice of a coach teacher, his understanding is optimum and can link the variables perfectly
peer 2 → Absolutely brilliant! I don’t think this could have been done any better.
peer 3 → I was very impressed with your response to the last question about the Snowman Effect. I think it was the best response that I have read out of the five assessments that I have done so far. Overall, your answers were well written and it was easy to comprehend them. Thank you for all your hard work, and good luck!
peer 4 → Excellent!
My final point is that teacher coaching is considered by many as the gold standard for improving teaching. If peer review is an essential component of the coaching model, should it be expanded from MOOCs and into the classroom? One of the goals of 21st Century pedagogy is to transform education into authentic work-based tasks. Many corporations use 360 degree evaluations. Should those be expanded into education and used as tools in teacher evaluations?