Constructive 'Student to Student Feedback' – A Framework


Training students to assess each other's work and performances can can have a lot of benefits.

What is “2 + 1 Feedback”?

Peer observers are taught to highlight:

  • 2 Strengths: two elements of their classmate's performance (in a discussion, debate or presentation) which were particularly well done.
    • Observers should be challenged to be specific, and to say how each strength added to the performance.
    • NOT general - “Your voice was 'good'” - but specific - “Your intonation as you began your second point clearly showed that you felt it was just as important as your first point.”
  • 1 Suggestion: observers are asked to offer only one suggestion.
    • Out of whatever weaknesses they may have observed, they offer their 'single most useful suggestion'.
    • The observers collaborate with the speaker in the shared goal of building important skills: they try to offer the one suggestion which would most help their fellow-learner perform even better next time.

On Gifts & Courtesy: Here's a note on the giving and receiving of 'gifts'.
The observers have given the speaker the gift of their full attention and their thoughtful analysis, because they want to help their friend (the speaker) to learn. As with any other gift in life, the appropriate response is to say “Thank you” to the giver.
[The receiver can decide later (privately) how much or how little he/she will value the gift, but at the moment the gift is given, “Thank you” is the polite response.]

During the performance, the observers offer their full, thoughtful attention to the speaker. During the post-performance feedback time, the roles are reversed. The previously 'silent' observers have the floor, and the speaker/performer listens and receives.
While clarification can be requested, there is usually no need for discussion and there should be no contradiction or complaints. Feedback can be clear, concise and constructive – and then closed.

On the importance of hearing both strengths and suggestions: Some people assume that the two strengths are there just to sweeten the 'pill' of the suggestion. This is far from true. In fact the opposite may be truer. At the end of a performance, speakers are often painfully aware of 'errors' – frequently 'errors' which observers may not even have noticed. They may have no idea at all of their areas of strength – of skills which may flow unconsciously. For example, speakers may benefit greatly from hearing about how certain words or gestures made it easier for the listeners to listen, or from hearing that they appeared calm, cheerful and engaging when their inner feelings were closer to terror.

NOTE: "2 + 1 Feedback" works just as well with encouraging 'student-to-student feedback' on 'non-performing' work such as creative writing, essays, individual projects or art.

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