Peer-review-based examination of the PhD course ”Introduction to Research” at the Sahlgrenska Academy
Paper i proceeding, 2012
Background: The Sahlgrenska Academy accepts around 90 new PhD students in medicine, odontology, health care sciences, and pharmacology, each semester. Early during PhD education, the students take the course ”Introduction to Research”. During spring of 2012, part of this course is given in a new format, with the goals to i) integrate the teaching of Theory of Science, Research Ethics, Research Methodology, Scientific Communication, and Information Retrieval, using one, integrated examination assignment, and ii) utilize the different backgrounds and research areas of the students for peer development.
Aim: We aim to evaluate the outcome of the new examination assignment, primarily by analysis of the PhD students’ written reflections that are part of the assignment.
Approach: The PhD students are divided into groups of four, mixing students of different educations, occupations, research cultures, and methodological knowledge. The groups conduct a peer-review process comprising each student’s research plan with a commentary reflecting on the course subjects (above) in relation to the student’s own project. Workshops are provided to support the writing and peer-review processes. Initially, the students read each other’s original research plans within the group, give oral feedback, and write a reflection. After the classroom-based teaching (three weeks), students update their research plan and write their commentary. Each student peer-reviews the documents of their group peers, giving feedback on content, style, and organization. For the final revision, students have to consider feedback of three peers. They also write a reflection on their given feedback. Finally, each student evaluates her/his own performance and learning, received feedback, research plan improvements, and the group’s work.
Preliminary results: Student reflections from the initial oral feedback suggest that they appreciate the opportunity to reevaluate their research plan, they get other comments and suggestions than expected due to varying student backgrounds, and they feel secure and confident within their groups. The research plans and commentaries are not all submitted yet, but early submissions suggest that the students find writing the commentary challenging and that the research plans get more realistic and structured. The course evaluation data to date suggest that students either enjoy the novel format and the challenge thereof or find it too time consuming and irrelevant.
Discussion: The literature on peer response as a learning activity is substantial but there is less work published on PhD-peer processes to promote learning and we hope this presentation offers a venue to explore such a discussion.