Motivating Students Who Receive Negative Feedback from Peers

Students' collaborating with hands together
"even at one of the most prestigious universities of the world, you cannot take student motivation for granted" (Van de Veen, 2015)

Nowadays, educators are encouraging students to interact with and review each other’s work. The transition to online learning has accelerated the use of peer feedback in various levels of education and programs. This is beneficial to students’ learning process as it helps them engage with their peers and course content multiple times at a deeper level.

Peer feedback refers to the motivational and critical response from students that aims to enhance their productivity, quality of work, and knowledge retention. It is worth mentioning that peer feedback should be considered as a professional assessment by students and not personal criticism. This blog post will enable its readers to understand the actual gist of peer feedback, its advantages for students and how instructors can motivate their students who receive negative feedback from their peers.

What is Peer Feedback?

Peer feedback refers to the comments and suggestions that students receive from each other in a class. In other words, peer feedback is also known as peer response, peer critiquing, peer review, peer evaluation and peer grading. It is a collaborative activity wherein students are encouraged to read, converse, and provide their thoughts and opinions on other students’ work to enhance their learning through scaffolding (Kuyyogsuy, 2019).

In this interactive learning, students communicate task-related information and data to their peers which are synthesized to enhance students’ self-reflection and academic performance (Huisman et al, 2019; Lui et al, 2001). Proven by research, constructive criticism from someone of the same age or position helps students to be more receptive to the different perspectives compared to when feedback is provided by an authoritative figure. Not to discount the constructive criticism from professors and experts, peer-to-peer feedback is an excellent complementary method for sharing and creating knowledge.

Benefits of Peer Feedback and Kritik

Improve Student Learning

Peer feedback gives students the responsibility to share their skills and expertise with each other. Apart from instilling new knowledge to their peers, the process of providing feedback encourages students to engage in the course content multiple times which improves information retention

Reduce Feedback Turnaround Time

In the traditional pedagogical approach in which only instructors provide feedback to students, it often becomes difficult for instructors to deliver meaningful feedback quickly and frequently. This delay in feedback can limit the students’ ability to improve as the relevance or significance of the recommendations decay over time. However, with peer feedback, students are empowered to receive quick, quality assessments on their work that add diverse perspectives to their learning which can be incorporated into their final assignments in a timely manner.

Improve Students’ Critical Thinking Skills

Peer feedback helps students develop their critical and analytical thinking skills. They are empowered to diagnose various problems and identify their peers’ strengths and weaknesses that engage the Prefrontal Cortex part of their brain which is responsible for higher-order thinking. Furthermore, students become more self-aware of their writing skills as they constantly provide critical and constructive remarks in a manner that professional, helpful and motivational.

Acquire New Knowledge

Students significantly learn from the multiple feedback they receive from their peers. It helps students become aware of various viable methodologies for solving problems. Moreover, peers who ask relevant complex questions as part of their feedback encourages students to acquire more knowledge in order to provide a detailed answer.

Improve Self-Reflection and Collaboration

Peer feedback allows students to gain a better understanding of their own work. This prevents students from overestimating and underestimating their skills and abilities. Collaborative assessment that involves peer feedback encourages students to move away from depending on educators as the sole source of feedback to an autonomous system in which each student contributes to each other’s knowledge and learning process.

Students Receiving Negative Feedback - An Opportunity to Learn and Improve

What students need to know - It is essential to understand how constant feedback that is perceived as negative or poor can affect a student’s motivation to perform at ideal levels. This learning process allows students to differentiate negative criticism from positive ones which enables them to understand how to professionally react to the latter. This knowledge is essential to students’ personal, academic and professional growth as they learn to keep an open mind and be considerate of all perspectives without being biased to their emotions.

What educators need to know - Educators who observe students with consistent poor feedback can monitor their progress from time to time and help them in improving by offering additional mentoring. They must encourage students to take criticism in a professional manner as part of their preparation for the world outside the educational institution.

How Instructors Can Motivate Students?

  • Instructors can employ the following ways to motivate students who receive poor feedback from their peers.
  • Instructors should continually monitor the feedback quality provided and received by peers in class discussions.
  • Another way educators can motivate students is to foster resilience among students and help them build their ability to work constructively and objectively with peer feedback.Instructors should encourage a logical response within students instead of an emotional response to peer feedback.
  • Instructors should encourage students in providing descriptive feedback instead of allocating grades. This will ensure that students focus on qualitative analysis which is more significant in helping their peers.


Peer feedback helps instructors foster students’ personal, academic and professional growth as they evaluate their own and their peers’ learning progress. In this reciprocal process of providing and receiving peer feedback, students are encouraged to ask questions, share information and expertise, identify challenges, and provide diverse strategies that jointly work to improve students’ mastery over the course or subject.

Students who perceive feedback as negative criticism should understand how to react professionally through self-reflection which is a skill that can be developed by constantly being exposed to peer feedback. Additionally, instructors are encouraged to help students identify their own strengths and weaknesses which enables students to have an open mind when receiving multiple perspectives.

Through Kritik, peers and educators work symbiotically to help students prepare for their future academic and professional endeavours.

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Cho, K. and Schunn, C. (2007). Scaffolded writing and rewriting in the discipline: A web-based reciprocal peer review system. Computers and Education, 48(3), 409-426.

Ertmer, P. A., Richardson, J. C., Belland, B., Camin, D., Connolly, P., Coulthard, G., ... & Mong, C. (2007). Using peer feedback to enhance the quality of student online postings: An exploratory study. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(2), 412-433.

Huisman, B., Saab, N., van den Broek, P., & van Driel, J. (2019). The impact of formative peer feedback on higher education students’ academic writing: a Meta-Analysis. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44(6), 863-880.

Jones, B. D. (2018). Motivating students by design: Practical strategies for professors.

Kuyyogsuy, S. (2019). Students’ Attitudes Toward Peer Feedback: Paving a Way for Students’ English Writing Improvement. English Language Teaching, 12(7).

Liu, E. Z. F., Lin, S. S., Chiu, C. H., & Yuan, S. M. (2001). Web-based peer review: The learner as both adapter and reviewer. IEEE Transactions on education, 44(3), 246-251.

McConnell, D. (2002). The experience of collaborative assessment in e-learning. Studies in continuing education, 24(1), 73-92.

Nicol, D., Thomson, A., Breslin, C. (2013). Rethinking feedback practices in higher education: a peer review perspective. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(1), 102-122.

Sukumaran, K., & Dass, R. (2014). Students’ perspectives on the use of peer feedback in English as a second language writing class. Journal of Interdisciplinary Research in Education (JIRE), 4(1), 27-40.

Jay Arias
Education Researcher