Student-generated content: investigating student use of PeerWise
Kay, Alison Elizabeth
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In recent years an increasing focus has been placed on the development of students’ skills of critical thinking, problem solving and independent learning, throughout their time at university. There is an increasing shift towards incorporating activities which promote students’ active engagement with course materials – with the intention of promoting a deeper understanding of their chosen subject. Many tools and techniques are available that facilitate students’ transition from the passive recipient of knowledge, to a central, active actor in the learning process. One such tool, PeerWise, is an online, free to use application where students are encouraged to write multiple choice questions for their peers to answer, resulting in a bank of questions for students to test their knowledge and understanding. Students are given opportunities to give feedback to question authors on the quality of the question, in the form of a numerical rating or a qualitative comment, which provides further scope for students to engage in discussion about the question. It is hypothesised that actively engaging with course material will promote a deeper understanding of its content and will develop students’ skills of problem solving and critical thinking. The research in this thesis explores the relationship between engagement with PeerWise and performance in end of course examinations in six courses (physics, chemistry and biology), across three academic years within three research intensive UK universities. This work aims to unpick the nature of student interactions on PeerWise, and the extent to which engagement with each activity on the system is associated with attainment, when controlling for a student’s prior ability and other relevant factors such as their gender. Student views on engaging with the system have also been gathered to understand the degree to which students find PeerWise useful to their learning, and the ways in which they interact with the platform. Although the results paint a complex picture of the relationship between PeerWise use and attainment, in most courses, and for most ability levels, students who engage to a higher level with PeerWise achieve a higher exam score than their lower engaging peers. There is also often a significant, positive correlation between engaging with PeerWise and end of course exam score which persists, even when controlling for a student’s prior ability. Although it would seem to be that answering questions and writing high quality feedback is more often associated with attainment than writing questions and receiving feedback, the results suggest that engagement across all activities is most beneficial to students – indicating that overall engagement with the task is key to student learning.