Universidad de Valladolid (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Pages: 4852-4862
ISBN: 978-84-612-7578-6
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 3rd International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 9-11 March, 2009
Location: Valencia, Spain
We have carried out a pilot experience in order to improve learning in doctorate courses and to adapt them to the spirit of the European Higher Education Area. The aim has been to facilitate that students not only acquire knowledge and skills related to the main topics of the course, but also transferable skills which are required for a successful research career. Those skills include the search and reading of scientific information, the writing of technical papers, and the capability of giving oral presentations, as well as getting used to the peer-review technique.

Special attention has been devoted to the last issue, peer-review, since it provides a significant number of benefits for learning. First of all, it increases the motivation of the students, as they know that their work will be read and listened not only by the lecturer, but also by their classmates. Moreover, it becomes a part of the learning process, since those errors made in a first approach may convert into opportunities for improvement. On the other hand, evaluating the work of others implies using knowledge and skills related to the course themes and being able to make critical judgments. Finally, students get used to a widely used technique in the research career, as peer-review is used in journals and conferences to select papers to publish, and by research funding entities. Thus, in the future, the work of these students will be peer-reviewed, and they will become evaluators.

Therefore, we have carried out a pilot experience within a doctorate course about Optical Communication Networks at University of Valladolid (Spain). The students must write a technical paper and give an oral presentation emulating the structure of a hypothetical conference. Both the presentations and the papers written by the students are anonymously evaluated by their mates, who offer both comments and a quantitative evaluation. In order to facilitate the evaluation, rubrics have been designed. The rubrics provide the set of criteria to evaluate and different levels of quality. The final marks of the papers and oral presentations are obtained by taking into account both the evaluations of the students and that of the lecturer. The lecturer also marks the comments provided by the students, in order to promote that they are really constructive. These comments provide guidelines for the student to generate a new version of his work, which will be evaluated again, in this case only by the lecturer. Moreover, oral presentations are video-recorded, so that students can see and self-evaluate their own presentation and compare with the comments of their mates.

To facilitate peer assessment, the Moodle e-learning platform has been used. However, it has been necessary to introduce a few modifications in the source code in order to guarantee true anonymity in the peer assessment process and to avoid biased grading. The introduction of the platform brings an additional advantage, as it facilitates that students working in companies or ill can follow the doctorate courses.

The results have been very positive, as the strategy has helped the students to improve transferable skills for a research career. The students have valued the introduction of peer assessment techniques very positively, and have shown a very good attitude by providing constructive comments on the work of their mates. Moreover, there have been no significant deviations in the grading provided by the students and the lecturer.
peer assessment, moodle, doctorate, oral presentations, video recording, paper writing, rubrics.