NSF Award III-2216227: Using Behavioral Nudges in Peer Review to Improve Critical Analysis in STEM Courses

Award Number and Duration:
NSF III-2216227: November 1, 2022 to October 31, 2025


This project aims to serve the national interest by increasing the quality of peer reviews given by students. Peer reviews, in which students have the opportunity to analyze and evaluate projects made by their classroom peers, are a widely acknowledged pedagogical method for engaging students and have become a standard practice in undergraduate education. Peer review is most often used in classes with large number of students to provide timely feedback on student assignments. However, peer review has benefits far beyond scalability. Peer review gathers diverse feedback, raises students’ comfort level with having their work evaluated in a professional setting, and most importantly, the action of giving a peer review is often more valuable than receiving a peer review. The software platforms in current use that support peer review have seen limited innovation in recent decades, and potential improvements to enhance student outcomes have not been thoroughly evaluated. This project plans to develop and study an innovative peer review system that uses behavioral nudges, a method of subtlety reinforcing positive habits, to improve the evaluation skills of students and the quality of the feedback they provide in peer reviews.

This project proposes to 1) create a software system supporting peer review that includes behavioral nudges for guiding the peer review process to hone students’ evaluation and critical analysis skills and 2) study how the use of behavioral nudges improves student engagement. The approach will be evaluated using four different visualization courses that serve approximately 800 students per year. Two groups of students will be studied. The control group will utilize peer review with additional feedback modalities but no nudges, while the test group will use peer review with the same feedback modalities but also include nudges. Common statistical tests such as, ANOVA, t-tests, and correlations, will be used to validate the results. The resulting system could provide a significant and measurable improvement in outcomes in courses that utilize peer review across different STEM disciplines. The resulting technologies will be disseminated as open source to enable widespread adoption. The NSF IUSE: EHR Program supports research and development projects to improve the effectiveness of STEM education for all students. Through the Engaged Student Learning track, the program supports the creation, exploration, and implementation of promising practices and tools.

PI and Point of Contact

Alon Friedman
Associate Professor
University of South Florida

Paul Rosen
Associate Professor
University of Utah

Zach Beasley

Kevin Hawley
Master Instructor
University of South Florida