Although many instructors integrate group-based or team-based learning activities into their teaching (see TeachOnline post on The Value of Group Work), getting students to actually provide meaningful peer-to-peer feedback can be challenging. Too often, cultural norms or fears of potential social backlash make students veer away from critiquing each other in a group setting or an online discussion forum. As a result, peers often do not know how to provide meaningful feedback and tend to fall back on statements, such as “I agree with what s/he said!” or the infamous Facebook-popularized, “I like it!”

Protocols Establish Expectations and Guidelines

One method for instructors to help their students communicate better and foster a friendly yet productive exchange is through the introduction of protocols. Protocols are structured conversations where participants are aware of expectations and guidelines on how and when to communicate. By clarifying and modeling those protocols early on, instructors can set the tone and stage for students to provide meaningful peer-to-peer feedback throughout a course.

The idea of using protocols is not new and can be found in many educational settings for various purposes. For example, Kagan Structures are popular in K-12 settings to engage students, create a positive classroom atmosphere, and promote students’ social skills (Kagan). In higher education, National School Reform Faculty (NSRF) protocols foster leadership skills by helping  faculty critically engage colleagues and students in dialogue. Among others, NSRF offers numerous protocols for building and maintaining learning communities or exploring topics and ideas through inquiry.

RISE Model for Meaningful Feedback (Emiliy Wray, 2013)

One protocol to help students communicate in a meaningful way and also collaborate better in an online classroom is the RISE model (Reflect, Inquire, Suggest, Elevate) by Emily Wray. Aligned with Bloom’s taxonomy, this model uses prompts to assist students “reflect, then build their constructive analysis through inquiry, [and] provide suggestions to help elevate each others work” (Wray, 2013). By prompting, students critically engage with each other on four different levels; thus, transforming vague responses to meaningful feedback.

RISE Model (Emily Wray) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License 

Example of RISE in a Discussion Forum

To help peers provide meaningful feedback in a discussion forum, ask students to consider the following four prompts when writing a response. By going through each prompt of RISE, students are equipped with a framework that not just provides structure for higher order thinking but also clarifies the expectations for relevant feedback to everyone.

Reflect (Recall, Ponder, and Communicate):

  • I relate/concur/disagree with X because…
  • I like what you did with X because…

Inquire (seek information and/or provide ideas through questioning):

  • Have you considered looking at X from Y perspective?
  • When you said X, am I understanding that you meant XY?

Suggest (introduce ideas for improvement of current iteration):

  • You might want to consider tweaking X for Y effect…
  • You might want to include supporting information for X resource …

Elevate (raise a higher degree or purpose in future iterations):

  • Perhaps you can expand on this in X fashion to further address Y…
  • Perhaps you can re-purpose X as Y for Z…

For a brief explanation (5 min.) by the author on how to use the RISE model in your class, please see Five Minutes of Fame::Emily Wray.

 Do you integrate peer-to-peer feedback in your class? What are your experiences? Please feel free to leave a comment and share your suggestions or protocols.


  1. Kagan, S., & Kagan, M. (2013). Kagan collaborative learning. Kagan Publishing: San Clemente, CA.
  2. National School Reform. (2013). Adult learning in the service of student achievement. Retrieved from
  3. Wray, E. (2013). RISE model for meaningful feedback. Retrieved from
  4. Wray, E. (2013). Five minutes of fame :: Emily Wray. Retrieved from