Peer-Review: A Vicarious (Mutual) Learning Process in the Role of a Feedback Provider

Throughout the Future Cultures (BCM325) subject, I have often questioned myself about the purpose of writing reflections on my role as a feedback producer of my peers’ presentations. While feedback receipt generates a critical self-reflection (Nicol et al. 2014: 102), which plays a cardinal role in the higher education independent learning environment (Nicol et al. 2014: 113), feedback provision appears to hold little reflective values. I used to ponder that feedback provision was a non-reciprocal process, which only benefited my peers’ (the receivers) performances and somehow, my tutor’s (the main feedback producer) workload share. Hence, I found commenting on my classmates’ projects time-consuming. 

However, my perspective changed in this second round of peer-commenting on Oliva’s, Jessica’s and Susie’s beta presentations of digital artefacts (DA). By employing dual roles as a reader and a researcher, I felt that I could suggest further research directions, enrich my friends’ justifications for method usage and concept development, and improve their DA’s utility in turn. Compared to the previous commenting round, this time, I eschew echoing already preexisting feedback by not reading the beta posts’ comment sections beforehand.  

1.    Olivia Burt’s E-xciting times ahead

I first started the second round with Olivia’s e-card business. Olivia aims to replace the paper business card with the environmental-friendly e-card by vectorising film posters. While Olivia showed strengths in translating marketing/ commerce theories into reality, she seemed to overlook the ethical and legal aspects of her movie poster reproduction. I suggested she should check copyright laws to ensure her legitimate use of film materials, and consider if laws might constrain her business in the long-term future. Thus, I recommended a journal examining copyright exhaustion in the cybersphere to Olivia. I also offered another academic source evaluating the ethics and values of online art reproduction to her. With these recommendations, I hoped to strengthen her justifications for launching the e-card business, as well as to open up different directions for future research relating to her business. Commenting on Oliva’s beta presentation, I began noticing that giving feedback enhanced my own research, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills in dealing with unfamiliar topics. 

2.    Jessica Radic’s Change it, then give it a go: DA Beta

The more I engaged in the iteration and overlapping acts of evaluations, the more critical I became. Although I hesitated to give long feedback in my first comment, fearing that reviews would become lengthy, I then was convinced that detailed feedback mattered. Despite being longer than most other comments, I believe my reviews are sufficiently succinct as they spanned different issues existing in my peers’ presentations. The feedback I made on Jessica’s post must be the shortest amongst the three. Jessica looks into the future of online content on Youtube by running a blog that discusses emerging issues and trends in the cyberspace. While Jessica showed substantial evidence of her prototype’s iteration and alterations based on previous feedback, I found it difficult to imagine her digital artefact’s scope. I then suggested she adopt a 3-time scale to specify future content blog topics. Based on this suggestion, I advised Jessica to look into the upward trend of digital media platforms like Youtube turning into political news consumers’ venues. Apart from this, I recommended an article which I believe can further justify her choice of studying trends on Youtube. 

3.    Susie Alderman’s Introducing: The Green Thread

The feedback production had indeed activated my cognitive process of “comparative” (peer- and self-) reviews (Nicol et al. 2014: 115). I regularly revisited and reexamined others’ DAs and mine to detect similar problems. Although no commenter picked this up, I found my video delivery somewhat disengaging due to my mumble rap and lightning slide transition. This self-reflection proved that feedback production offers a win-win situation for both my friends (receivers) and I (provider). Keeping that in mind, I moved on Susie’s project about green fashion with great anticipation for mutual learning and a thirst for knowledge. 

Susie creates a website selling laser-wooded jewelry with an aim “to make the conversation around sustainability…in fashion more accessible to a younger audience”. As an appealing speaker, Susie brilliantly delivered her business ideas. However, I found the greening concept of her business unpersuasive. I am highly skeptical about how Susie labels her business with a “greening”, “good will” tag. Indeed, I questioned what she meant by “more accessible” by citing research about constrains consumers face when shifting to eco-fashion. While I had more to comment on, I felt that the spiral of silence caught me. Considering that I am the only public commenter finding her “green motto” problematic (*cough*, slacktivism), I feared that I misunderstood Susie and/or my feedback could be seen as a personal attack.

Online feedback production makes me realise that communication is demanding. Despite my attempt in commenting vividly and cheerfully, my reviews sound dry and too serious due to the lack of facial expressions and paralanguage. As these non-verbal cues account for 65% of the message and are non-transferable into the cybersphere (Dwyer, 2013), I felt that I should comment less to avoid offending Susie. Writing down these thoughts, I discover that I should have used emoji to partly compensate for body language, which could help to convey my argument to Susie fully. I regretted paying little attention to emoji (which I even have conducted research about, shame on me :() , leading to the general lack of conviviality in my comments. I now doubt my comments’ usefulness to my peers’ DA, considering that my communication perhaps has failed to deliver my message. 

Overall, I have critically engaged in my peers’ DA concepts, which contrasts to my perfunctory performance in the first commenting round. I realise that giving feedback indeed embodies a “vicarious” mutual learning process” (Nichol et al. 2014: 116), which is fueled by high levels of constant critical engagements – reviews and recommend scholarly sources – for reflecting. Considering this process, giving itself seems more rewarding than receiving feedback.


Dwyer, J 2013, Communication for business and the profession: Strategies and skills, 5th edn, Pearson Australia, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

Nicol, D, Thomson, A & Breslin, C 2014, “Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective”, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 102-122.

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Trang Bùi

BCM-BINTs | Class of 2021 | UOW

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