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Feedback Practice in Eli Helps Students Learn and Feel Like they Belong at UCSB

New results from the University of California Santa Barbara’s Access to Practice (AtP) research group show that giving and receiving feedback on writing to learn activities contributes significantly to student success. They found that regular, low-stakes peer feedback activities produce significant improvement in students’ learning and their sense of belonging. Most encouraging, the results seem more significant for those students who are first-generation and for those with GPAs under 3.0. While feedback practice helped all students, it especially helped those who are most likely to struggle in first-year courses. 


Our colleagues Dr. Vanessa Woods, Dr. Maggie Safronova, and Dr. Linda Adler-Kassner at UCSB are, once again, reporting some exciting news. Students in large enrollment courses that incorporate writing to learn who spent time giving and receiving feedback improved their performance in measurable and significant ways during a ten week quarter. 

You might recall that we saw an initial report from this group with encouraging results back in 2019 in a Biology class. Now the results are expanded to include more students in Biology along with students in a section of Greek Mythology. 

The Access to Practice research group at UCSB is a collaborative enterprise that includes several other institutions involved in SEISMIC: Sloan Equity and Inclusion in Stem Introductory Courses with the goal of transformative curricular impact. The AtP group has focused on peer learning as a means to help students feel more connected, enhance understanding of course concepts, and improve written communication.

We are especially excited to see solid evidence for a phenomenon we write a lot about here at Eli: “giver’s gain.” This is the benefit to learners from giving feedback to their peers, something that Eli Review helps facilitate. 

In two large biology classes, one class of 266 learners taught with an “active learning” pedagogy and one more “traditional” style class with 550 learners, students who gave critical feedback to their peers that included specific references to criteria and suggestions for improvement were much more like to receive higher scores on the final exam. This was true even when the researchers controlled for other strongly predictive factors such as results on the first exam. 

In one of the courses, an introductory Biology section, according to the AtP group:

“Students who provide recommendations on how to improve receive higher scores on the final exam. The findings controlled for socioeconomic, demographics, and performance from one earlier exam. The findings also suggest that completing AtP/Eli Review write-review prompts has a stronger effect for first generation students. On average, students who provide critical feedback received 12 points more on the midterm.”

We are very happy to see this link between student success and peer learning.  It demonstrates why investing in strong feedback cultures is worthwhile for teachers and learners. 

The AtP group also found similar effects for students in a large Greek Mythology class. In a class with 653 learners, the researchers found a positive correlation between completing the assigned feedback practice and better performance on the final paper.. The researchers also found, even when they controlled for demographic and prior performance factors, that

“…a comparison between completion of review and writing tasks suggests that completion of short writing tasks has a positive effect on students’ final paper scores. The effect is significant for students who come to the course with a cumulative GPA below 3.0.”

We are thrilled to see our colleagues at UCSB using Eli to make a more inclusive learning environment for their students. We are equally thrilled that Eli Review makes this kind of systematic teaching and learning research, backed by performance data possible to do. 

We love working with teachers and researchers in these ways. If you find any of these results interesting enough to try out, or if you have ideas about research of your own, we’d love to hear about it!

Feedback Practice in Eli Helps Students Learn and Feel Like they Belong at UCSB was published to the Eli Review Blog in the category Research.

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