Peer tutoring and peer evaluation activities
increase the students’ engagement in the learning process. Student tutors
require deeper knowledge and understanding of the task which may lead to better
preparation for the classes, raising awareness, learning to share with others and
performing additional out-of-class activities, e.g. reading, watching
Peer tutoring activities generate
significant benefits for the students. They develop reasoning and critical
thinking skills, improve self-esteem and interpersonal skills, motivate students
to communicate by various means, not only face to face but also using latest ICT
tools, so students’ digital competence may also increase.
Collaboration and teamwork are key
competences for students. The syllabi academic teachers draw up for their legal
English and business English courses always include the element of cooperation,
group work, pair work as social competences that graduates require.
The project which I introduced into my
legal English classes in spring semester 2019 was aimed at deeper engagement of
students in the learning and teaching process. Students were delegated a number
of peer tutoring tasks which were supposed to give them more responsibility,
empower them to provide feedback and keep them accountable for the quality of
the assignments carried out.
The activities which I introduced into my
classes were modelled so that they developed the productive language skills of:
- writing/drafting (legal
opinions, correspondence, blog posts, contract clauses paraphrases in plain
English, translations), and
- speaking (presentations, job
An important element of each activity was
the preparation stage during which students familiarized themselves with the
rules, language, layouts and standards of modern writing/correspondence or
Before they made any attempts of writing
legal opinions or paraphrasing contract clauses, they were introduced to plain
language rules, they studied model answers, analysed layout, etc. Only then
they were asked to write a document/text on their own. Peer tutoring involved
in writing activities consisted in peer correction at the first stage before
the assignment was handed in for the teacher’s grading. For writing tasks
students were also familiarized with the correction code, so that they used the
same code and the comments were understood by the authors of the texts evaluated.
In the case of presentations students
studied the structure and the language of a presentation first and they were
sent an evaluation sheet with checklist questions to know what their peer
evaluators will be paying attention to while listening to and collecting
feedback for the presenters. During presentations the audience was asked to
make notes on the evaluation sheets under four headings: delivery,
content/structure, body language, and visual aids. After each presentation
audience commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation and
asked questions, they had been asked to prepare to rehearse a question and answer
session after each presentation.
To help students
prepare for job interviews a speed interviewing session was organized. Interviewers
were given the
grid to evaluate the interviewees and had five minutes to talk to each candidate
after which time the interviewees moved to another interviewer.
As a follow up activity the interviewers group together
to discuss their marks for each candidate and choose the student with the best
score to get the job. The interviewees, on the other hand, may discuss the
questions they had to answer, which were the most challenging, what surprised
them, etc. or decide which interviewer was the most professional, asked the
most interesting questions, etc. When the students announce their choices, they
discuss the strengths and weaknesses of individual candidates and the teacher
may also give the class some feedback.
During the semester the students also prepared
their CVs. The CVs were supposed to be authentic but anonymized. I photocopied
the CVs and distributed them among students who worked in groups and were asked
to provide feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the documents they got
and choose the best one from the collection provided. On the basis of the peer feedback
and the teacher’s feedback, students had an opportunity to polish their CVs and
At the end of the semester students filled in a
short questionnaire in which they shared their opinion about peer tutoring
activities performed during their classes. Most students (73%) admitted they
improved their letter writing skills, job interviewing skills, presentation
skills. The students felt the comments they received from their peers after the
presentations were most useful (82%). More than a half of students (60%) found
the feedback concerning their letters of advice useful, while in the case of
CVs only less then one third of students (27%) valued the feed and most
students (55%) were not sure whether the feedback they received helped. Eight students
out of ten enjoyed taking the role of an evaluator and reported that they had
improved their confidence. They also confessed that positive comments were
easier to give and for most of them (78%) their peers assessment was important.
Quite interestingly, my students considered writing letters of advice as the most enjoyable of all tasks and speed interviewing as the least. The same order is reflected in the question about usefulness of the activities.
If you would like to see a detailed presentation of the results of my survey, please download the presentation.