Feedback provided to students on their submitted work is critical to their success, but students can also benefit from feedback from their classmates. Peer reviews can be a valuable exercise for the reviewer and the recipient.  

Reviewers get experience by critically examining the work of others, building skills and knowledge they can apply when reviewing their own work. By shifting perspective, reviewers can gain new insight into the purpose of the assigned work and observe other students’ strategies for meeting the assignment’s established criteria. The recipient gets a unique perspective on their work and can see how effective they were in meeting the expectations others had for the assignment. Peer reviews can also provide a meaningful avenue for student interaction that is particularly important to foster in online courses. 

Canvas’ Peer Review tool is built into Assignments and is simple to implement. Faculty members can have Canvas automatically assign reviewers or it can be done manually. Additionally, things can be kept anonymous so students don’t feel nervous while critiquing their classmates’ work.  

Please note that Canvas does not have a built-in way to grade students directly on the act of reviewing itself. If faculty members wish for students to receive a grade dependent on the reviews they provide, they will need to create a no-submission assignment and give them scores manually. (See the Center for Teaching, Learning and Design’s Add Manual Columns to the Gradebook tutorial for more information.) 

Best practices 

When to use: 

Use Peer Review when students will benefit from their peers’ input, such as when revising drafts of papers or evaluating experimental results. Peer Review can be even more effective if the Assignment has an associated Rubric so reviewers understand exactly what criteria to evaluate. See the CTLD’s Using Rubrics in Canvas spotlight for guidance on setting up Rubrics. 

When to set up: 

Enable Peer Review when creating a Canvas Assignment. If there is an existing assignment that faculty members would like to enable Peer Review for, it can be done by editing the assignment. When designing lengthy assignments and projects with several drafts or submissions, consider at what points in the process peer reviews would be most useful to students. 

When not to use: 

Don’t use Peer Review if feedback could be confusing or misleading to the recipient or if the feedback would do little to help the recipient improve. This can be the case if assignment instructions are too vague and reviewers don’t fully understand expectations. Additionally, peer reviews are not effective when students cannot immediately implement the feedback they receive. Avoid having students review final work and instead give students an opportunity to revise their work after review. 

Walking through it together

For complete written step-by-step instructions, visit the CTLD Ready Spotlight tutorial page. 

Have questions? 

Want help on this or other teaching and learning topics? Please visit the CTLD for drop-in support (10 a.m.-3 p.m., M-F) or try one of the self-help tutorials.