Students’ peer feedback engagements in online english courses facilitated by a social network in Thailand


Budi Waluyo1 , Benjamin Panmei2*

1Walailak University (Thailand)

2Bangkok University, Bangkok University International-Language and Culture
for Business Department (Thailand)

Received June 2023

Accepted October 2023


In recent years, despite the extensive research on peer feedback, there remains limited understanding of how students engage in peer feedback activities within online English courses and what they expect from these activities. This study, utilizing a sequential explanatory mixed methods design with a phenomenological approach, introduced online peer feedback (OPF) activities into a 12-week online English writing course involving 30 second-year students (16.7% male, 83.3% female) facilitated through a Facebook group. Data collection encompassed survey questionnaires, written reflections, and task scores. Quantitative data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and bivariate correlations, while qualitative data underwent thematic analysis. Three key findings emerged: 1) EFL students displayed positive engagement in OPF activities, 2) Student engagement did not significantly correlate with their writing outcomes, and 3) Students provided valuable recommendations for enhancing the quality and quantity of feedback, incorporating teacher feedback and guidance, and improving the overall process and experience. These findings have significant implications for pedagogical practice, emphasizing the importance of integrating OPF activities into the academic curriculum, with a specific emphasis on guiding students to deliver descriptive and constructive feedback, providing scaffolding to enhance their comprehension and writing skills, and addressing concerns related to language proficiency and grammar. Furthermore, the novelty of this research lies in its exploration of factors influencing student involvement and achievements in OPF endeavors, the impact of feedback quality and quantity, and the benefits of online accessibility and temporal flexibility, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of this pedagogical approach.


Keywords – Online learning, Peer feedback, Writing, Learning outcomes, Facebook.

To cite this article:

Waluyo, B, & Panmei, B. (2024). Students’ peer feedback engagements in online english courses facilitated by a social network in Thailand. Journal of Technology and Science Education, 14(2), 306-323.



    1. 1. Introduction

The proliferation of information and communication technologies, coupled with the widespread adoption of online learning in higher education institutions worldwide (López-Belmonte, Segura-Robles, Moreno‑Guerrero & Parra-González, 2021) amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to the growing popularity of online peer feedback (OPF). Due to its capacity to promote improved learning outcomes and critical thinking skills, this form of feedback is gradually taking the place of traditional face-to-face encounters (Law & Baer, 2020). Research from the past and the present has emphasized the benefits connected to participating in OPF activities. These benefits encompass the development of various cognitive processes (Van Popta, Kral, Camp, Martens & Simons, 2017), superior domain-specific knowledge acquisition compared to traditional approaches (Latifi, Noroozi, Hatami & Biemans, 2021; Nelson & Schunn, 2009), and the facilitation of meaningful social interactions among students (Lin & Yang, 2011). However, while these advantages are well documented, previous studies have also raised concerns regarding students’ lack of confidence in peer commenting. Some students may be reluctant to express and clarify their ideas, resulting in a one-way communication process and leaving a significant proportion of peer comments unaddressed (Guardado & Shi, 2007; Waluyo, 2020). Moreover, the utilization of online technologies poses functional and psychological challenges for students (Lin & Yang, 2011; López-Belmonte, Pozo-Sánchez, Carmona-Serrano & Moreno-Guerrero, 2022; Moreno-Guerrero, Soler-Costa, Marín-Marín & López-Belmonte, 2021). Therefore, it is crucial for educators to understand the factors that affect the effectiveness of online peer feedback and develop strategies to increase its use in the context of higher education.

Student engagement is a prominent factor in the domain of OPF activities because it has the potential to exert a substantial influence on both the learning outcomes and experiences of students in their writing activities (Saeed, Ghazali, Sahuri & Abdulrab, 2018; Tian & Zhou, 2020). A recent meta-analysis conducted by Jongsma, Scholten, van Muijlwijk-Koezen and Meeter (2023) emphasizes the natural adaptability of online peer feedback, which allows students to engage at their own pace, unrestricted by classroom time constraints. This autonomy also allows students to access additional resources prior to providing feedback, resulting in more critical and detailed comments that contribute to improved learning outcomes. A separate review study conducted by Hsu and Wang (2022) provided further confirmation that asynchronous computer-mediated communication effectively facilitates peer feedback, leading to enhanced quality of peer comments. Moreover, Zhang, He, Du, Liu and Huang (2022) pointed out that, from a social-affective perspective, students experience positive emotions when observing their peers’ humble attitudes and mutual respect, which helps them avoid negative emotions such as embarrassment, wrath, or upset. However, if the peer feedback activities are mediated by social network platforms, the constant internet connectivity may increase emotional burden and decreases peer trust. In OPF activities, students may share project photos, access course announcements, enhance material projects, and interact with peers online (Demirbilek, 2015).

The urgency of this research stems from the notable gap in the existing body of knowledge, particularly within the specific domain of EFL university students enrolled in Thai higher education institutions. To address this conspicuous research problem, the present study adopts a rigorous research design, guided by a phenomenological approach, and builds upon preliminary studies by integrating online peer feedback (OPF) activities into a 12-week English writing course encompassing three distinct writing assignments. The central purpose of this study is to thoroughly investigate the extent of students’ engagement with the reception and provision of peer feedback and, crucially, to discern the impact of this engagement on their learning outcomes in the domain of writing. Furthermore, the research endeavors to elicit comprehensive and insightful recommendations from students, derived from their direct learning experiences, for the enhancement of future online peer feedback activities.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Students’ Engagements in Online Peer Feedback (OPF) Activities

Engaging in online peer feedback activities is advantageous for students. Among the benefits as a feedback provider, Van Popta et al.’s review study (2017) pointed out the development of higher-level learning skills such as critical insight, reflection, improved writing, heightened meaning-making, knowledge construction, and evaluative judgement. Saeed et al. (2018), who engaged EFL students from different Arab countries in a writing course mediated by a Facebook group, discovered that EFL students who actively engaged in feedback exchanges revised their work more effectively and fostered group cohesion. Nevertheless, these findings diverge from the observations of Guardado and Shi (2007) as well as Zhao, Sullivan and Mellenius (2014), who noted that EFL Japanese and Swedish students exhibited a lack of confidence and reluctance to express opinions. Consequently, communication became unidirectional, with numerous unaddressed peer comments and a low level of social presence, impeding collaborative work due to limited student participation in peer feedback activities. Conversely, Pham, Lin, Trinh and Bui (2020) discovered that students entrenched within a Confucian cultural context, typically characterized by shyness and reluctance to offer criticism to peers, could surmount cultural barriers and actively engage in peer feedback. Al-Abri, Al-Baimani and Bahlani (2021) discovered similar results: EFL learners in Oman view anonymous feedback positively, which fosters confidence and reduces social anxiety. Peer feedback tasks also help students comprehend evaluation criteria and develop critical evaluation skills. Individual differences may impact students’ performance and their willingness to embrace peer feedback.

Nonetheless, Cao, Yu and Huang (2019) qualitative investigation among EFL students in China uncovered that some students recognize the advantages of receiving peer feedback but doubt their ability to learn from providing feedback out of fear of potential embarrassment among their peers. As demonstrated by Kerman, Noroozi, Banihashem, Karami and Biemans (2022), to improve writing quality, students must receive descriptive and constructive feedback as opposed to affective and descriptive feedback. Recent research advises against restricting students to the function of feedback receivers. In their examination of passive, active, and constructive engagement with peer feedback, Wu and Schunn (2023) consistently found that constructive activities, such as offering explanations and implementing suggested revisions, promoted learning, whereas passive engagement (e.g., receiving feedback without making revisions) and active engagement (e.g., simply implementing specific suggestions) did not yield the same benefits. Correspondingly, Su and Huang (2022), who investigated the affective experiences of EFL Chinese students during peer feedback sessions in academic writing, also observed a general preference for the role of feedback provider. These students reported substantially greater levels of both private and peer enjoyment in this role and a heightened sense of satisfaction when providing comments.

Engaging students as both providers and recipients of feedback is often considered ideal, yet it does not always link to better performances. In the context of Dutch university students, Huisman, Saab, Van Driel and Van Den Broek (2018) reported that both providing and receiving feedback led to comparable improvements in writing performance. The presence of explanatory comments was positively correlated with students’ perceptions of the adequacy of peer feedback and their propensity to make improvements in their writing. Yet, there was no correlation between these perceptions and improved writing performance. In a study involving EFL students in Saudi Arabia, Daweli (2018) identified hierarchical power dynamics in the online classroom, indicating that students’ prior beliefs and experiences can influence their responses to the given feedback, ultimately affecting the quality of their final writing. The way students perceive the advantages and disadvantages of online peer feedback significantly influences their development of writing skills in OPF activities (Zhang et al., 2022).

2.2. Students’ Engagements in Online Peer Feedback (OPF) and Learning Outcomes

Jongsma et al. (2023) conducted a comparative analysis of online and offline peer feedback in ten empirical studies, and discovered that online peer feedback is more effective, especially in the aspect of writing skill developments. The positive effects of student participation in online peer feedback (OPF) activities on writing development have also been observed among EFL university students in Indonesia (Wahyudin, 2018) and the Netherlands (Noroozi, Banihashem, Biemans, Smits, Vervoort & Verbaan, 2023). To ensure positive outcomes in OPF, Yang (2016) suggests providing students with a foundational comprehension of main ideas via scaffolding, facilitating knowledge exchange through both giving and receiving feedback, and resolving writing issues through revisions guided by peer feedback. Moreover, Jin, Jiang, Xiong, Feng and Zhao (2022) examined the impact of student participation in OPF at a Chinese university and discovered that cognitive engagement, affective engagement, and behavioural engagement substantially linked with students’ writing performance. The analysis also showed that suggestions, integration, and positive affective involvement were the next biggest predictors of writing performance, with usefulness of offered comments emerging as the strongest among them.

Bailey and Cassidy’s (2019) and Cassidy and Bailey’s (2018) research among EFL students in Korea provides insights into how OPF activities may result in beneficial outcomes. heir research revealed that students who participated in OPF for a semester exhibited improved learning strategies, heightened awareness of language use, and a reduction in second language writing apprehension, which ultimately led to improved writing assignments. Particularly, students demonstrated proficiency in addressing various aspects of grammar, content, and organization in the writing of their classmates, and they took pride in assisting one another with their writing development. Furthermore, their participation in the feedback‑providing phase of peer review resulted in a larger number of higher-level improvements than the feedback they received. In an Indonesian university study, Mulyati and Hadianto (2023) argued that written peer feedback aided students organize their ideas, permitted a comprehensive review of feedback quality, and fostered a deeper comprehension of topics, thereby enhancing students’ domain knowledge. Interestingly, the negative effects of OPF on learning outcomes are insufficiently supported by research, and additional investigation is required, especially in the context of Thai higher education.

2.3. Students’ Expectations of Peer Feedback Activities

The attitudes of EFL students towards online peer feedback (OPF) activities tend to be positive following an extended period of engagement (Ting, 2023). However, there is a dearth of research investigating students’ expectations and recommendations for optimizing the learning experience in terms of feedback instructions. OPF activities are perceived as convenient due to their time independence, allowing students to access resources and allocate ample time for thoughtful formulation of comments before providing feedback to peers (Jongsma et al., 2023). The availability of internet connectivity empowers students to offer constructive feedback from diverse sources, thereby fostering expanded thinking in relation to their peers’ written works (Noroozi, 2022; Pratiwi & Waluyo, 2022). Nevertheless, the asynchronous nature of online peer feedback presents a potential challenge, as it hampers the establishment of dynamic interactions encompassing receptive and productive mastery experiences, computer-mediated exchanges, social comparisons, and achievement goal orientations that occur during OPF activities (Lee & Evans, 2019). Engaging in interactive dialogues among students, however, holds significant potential for enhancing the learning process (Wood, 2022). Especially, some students express a preference for feedback provided by teachers, indicative of limited trust in peer feedback and self-assessment (Ciftci & Kocoglu, 2012). These sentiments shed light on the intricate dynamics that influence the acceptance and perceived credibility of peer feedback in online contexts. Consequently, further investigation is warranted to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors shaping students’ attitudes towards peer feedback, and to devise strategies that can augment its effectiveness and acceptance.

2.4.The Study

Research on students’ engagements in online peer feedback (OPF) activities within Thai higher education contexts is limited. Among the studies are Ekahitanond (2013), who employed OPF through an online discussion forum, revealing improved post-test scores and positive attitudes towards learning, and Wichadee (2013), who used Facebook for OPF, showing benefits in content-oriented feedback and the quality of revised drafts. Further comprehensive investigations are needed to enhance OPF practices in English writing courses. This study aims to implement OPF activities and address these research questions:

  1. 1.How do students perceive their engagement in peer feedback in online English learning in higher education in terms of reading and giving feedback? 

  2. 2.How does their perceived engagement influence their writing outcomes? 

  3. 3.What are their recommendations for improving peer feedback activities in online English courses based on their learning experiences? 

3. Methodology

This study employed a sequential explanatory mixed methods design to collect and integrate quantitative and qualitative data (Creswell & Plano-Clark, 2007). Quantitative data included students’ writing task scores and surveys, while qualitative data consisted of students’ reflections and recommendations on online peer feedback (OPF) activities. A phenomenological approach was used to explore students’ lived experiences and the significance of OPF activities (Saevi, 2014). The research process involved identifying the phenomenon, recruiting participants, collecting, and analyzing data, and presenting comprehensive findings. Valuable insights were gained into students’ engagement in OPF activities in an online English writing course during one academic term.

3.1. Context and Participant

Conducted at a mid-sized university in southern Thailand, this investigation involved a sample of 30 second‑year students (16.7% male, 83.3% female) pursuing a degree in medical technology. The participants, with an average age of 20.40 (SD = 77), were selected using a non-random convenient sampling technique based on accessibility (Sedgwick, 2013). Before starting their English course, all students took a standardized university English proficiency examination aligned with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Most students were classified as basic English users at the A2 level, having had over nine years of English language learning experience from primary to tertiary education.

The institution’s English lecturers teaching general and academic English courses are certified by the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) and have published research articles in Scopus-indexed journals. During the study, participants engaged in fully synchronous online classes using the Zoom application for a duration of 12 weeks.

3.2. Ethical Considerations

Prior to conducting the research, the researchers underwent research ethics training via the CITI program in the United States and higher education institutions in Thailand. The research was conducted in accordance with the established standards of social science research and was duly acknowledged by the research committee of the authors. Voluntary participation was ensured in the research, and confidentiality of personal information was maintained.

3.3. Course Design and Research Procedure

The primary objective of this course was to elevate students’ proficiency in professional English writing, with a specific emphasis on honing their skills in survey research. Over the course duration, students undertook a series of three key tasks. Firstly, they were tasked with composing surveys. Subsequently, they moved on to crafting survey reports, and finally, they culminated their efforts by producing comprehensive survey reports. To enrich the learning experience, peer feedback sessions were seamlessly integrated into each of these tasks, expertly guided by the instructor who introduced two distinct peer feedback instruments.

The initial feedback form, denoted as Figure 1, explored surveys on multiple dimensions. Firstly, it assessed the surveys in terms of their purpose. It then delved into the lucidity of questions and responses, grammatical accuracy, question formulation, and structural coherence. The second feedback instrument, presented as Figure 2, critically evaluated survey reports, focusing on aspects such as the survey’s overarching purpose, the intended target population, the methodology adopted, the presentation of results and discussions, the formulation of conclusions, and grammatical precision. Furthermore, students were actively encouraged to assign scores to these peer review forms in line with their evaluations, and they were also prompted to offer constructive comments.

To ensure that students were proficient in using these peer feedback forms, a comprehensive orientation session was meticulously conducted. During this session, students were equipped with the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively employ the peer feedback forms for conducting peer reviews. Detailed visual representations of these feedback forms (Figures 1 and 2) were presented during this orientation session, aiding students in navigating the intricacies of the review process. Then, to facilitate a seamless feedback exchange, a dedicated Facebook group was established by the instructor at the commencement of the course. Within this virtual platform, students were assigned specific peer assignments for evaluation. Subsequently, students conscientiously employed the provided peer review forms to assess their assigned peers’ work. Once this evaluation process was completed, students shared their reviewed forms by posting them as responses to their respective peers’ assignment submissions. It is worth noting that these peer review activities were conducted outside of the regular class hours, a practice that was replicated for three distinct assignments.

Importantly, this approach provided students with an invaluable opportunity to access the feedback provided by their peers. This aligns with established educational research (Demirbilek, 2015; Saeed et al., 2018; Wichadee, 2013), highlighting the pedagogical value of collaborative peer assessment in enhancing the learning process. Figure 3 below is an illustrative example of a Facebook post that showcases the peer review activities in action.


Figure 1. The peer review form for surveys


Figure 2. The peer review form for short and long survey reports