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UBC tool innovates peer feedback process

Transformative Learning | Strategy 11: Education Renewal
Theme: Collaboration
Physics & Astronomy instructor James Charbonneau speaks with students in the Science One program

ComPAIR, a cross-disciplinary teaching and learning tool, is offering a new approach to peer feedback. Developed at UBC, this open-source online tool offers an innovative extension of traditional peer feedback tools by tapping into students’ innate ability to compare. By presenting pairs of assignments side-by-side, students have a reference point when reflecting on strengths and weaknesses in their peers’ work and their own.

The process is based on a psychological principle called Thurstone’s Law of Comparative Judgment, which states that novices are better at comparing two things rather than judging one item in isolation.

“If you ask students to grade one of their peers’ assignments…it’s a really hard thing to do,” explains James Charbonneau, an Instructor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and Associate Director of Science One and the Coordinated Science Program. “But if you give students two assignments and ask ‘Which one is better?’ then that’s a lot easier.”

Funded by the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, ComPAIR was developed through a participatory design process that included developers, educational specialists from the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), and faculty members from Physics, Math and English. To accommodate all three departments, a flexible design was created so it could be used across disciplines, class sizes and assignment types – ultimately producing a tool that is widely valuable and flexible for different kinds of teaching. So far, close to 6,000 students have used the tool in more than 60 courses.

ComPAIR is just one example of the many initiatives currently in place across campus in support of Education Renewal (Strategy 11) at UBC, as the university focuses on providing support for instructors in their drive to be highly effective teachers and to develop their craft. The tool was also recently recognized with a silver medal at the 2019 IMS Global Learning Impact Awards, a global program which recognizes outstanding and innovative applications of educational technology to address the most significant challenges facing education.

Visit the CTLT website to read more about ComPAIR’s interdisciplinary development, and how the tool is benefitting students across faculties – from English students gaining hands-on practice to Physics students learning how to explore different viewpoints.