Sharing with Peers

By: Carole Geneix

(This blog post comes from Carole Geneix, Director of Teaching and Learning at Washington International School’s Tregaron campus. Carole writes a weekly blog called Tregaron Educators, which documents teaching and learning across the Middle and Upper schools at WIS.)

On the WIS Tregaron campus, peers—whether students or teachers—share their thinking, blurring the frontier between teaching and learning.
Recently, several teachers presented peer-to-peer workshops. Here are two examples:

Using the Seesaw Website
Seesaw is an easy way for students to share their thinking with their peers. Through the website, students build electronic portfolios, interact with each other, learn online etiquette, and share their work with an outside audience (parents and, in our case, a sister school). Parents see only their own child’s documentation.
The calendar allows teachers to see what contributions were made in a given day and gives a quick preview of students’ uploads.

The possibilities of uploads are varied: photo, video, drawing, file, note or link.

Students can comment on each other’s documents by “liking” them or post a comment.

Teachers can click on a student’s file and see everything the student has posted at once, or click on a date and see all students’ documentation.

It is an intuitive and appealing visual tool that is more about documenting thinking and sharing ideas on an online platform rather than submitting assignments. Teachers can also create a class blog through the website.

What are the benefits of this online sharing for students?

  •  A renewed sense of belonging to a community of learners
  • An opportunity to see and appreciate your peers’ documentation 
  • A chance to have an audience, which leads to professionalism and ownership

Using Mind Maps as Summative Assessment
Another workshop was about a summative assessment that required students to draw mind maps to synthesize the major points of a topic. A more traditional approach to the same assessment would have been to write an essay about these concepts. Below are a few screenshots of what students produced on poster boards.

Students had the option of choosing to submit their work electronically via the Google Drive add-on Lucidchart.

The assignment was differentiated in several ways:

  • It catered to various types of learners who might learn best while doing (making a poster), visualizing and drawing (making a concept map) or writing more linearly (using blocks of texts). It also appealed to students who choose technology over paper.
  • Even though the instructions and the assessment criteria were the same for everyone, the final assignments looked very different from one another. The “key” that students provided with their map helped both students and teachers understand the logic behind their choices of color, shape, type of links, or interaction between objects.
  • The assessment criteria were similar to an essay’s and were coherent with future International Baccalaureate Diploma Program requirements. One criterion was specific to the visual aspect of the assignment while all the other criteria were about depth of content and rigor of process. The rubric was driven by the idea of understanding rather than content coverage.
  • The rubric was similar to the Project Zero Understanding Map:
  • The assignment emphasized the idea of connections within the unit and outside (link between history, philosophy and economics, in particular), which is a springboard for interdisciplinary thinking at the IB Diploma level (the Theory of Knowledge course comes to mind) and beyond.