Students in higher education regularly experience writing problems. To improve students' writing skills, lecturers increasingly use peer feedback. On the one hand, this is a positive development: peer feedback exchange can improve the writing skills of both the feedback giver and the feedback receiver. On the other hand, it is known that peer feedback exchange does not always produce the desired results. Students tend to focus on lower-order aspects such as spelling, grammar and punctuation when giving and processing peer feedback, and much less on higher-order aspects such as structure, content and argumentation. This is undesirable because it is precisely these higher-order aspects that contribute to the quality of a text. As a result, the learning benefits of a labour-intensive activity may be small.
The question arises as to what requirements peer feedback exchange should meet in order to encourage students to focus on the higher-order aspects of a text. Recent research points to the possible importance of dialogic interaction. This refers to any form of interaction in which authors of a text take an active role in seeking, generating, and accessing feedback on their product. As such, new knowledge and meaning is ideally generated as a result of the interaction between a writer and a reader. Dialogic peer-feedback differs from non-dialogic peer-feedback because in the latter, more traditional, form of peer-feedback exchange, one of the students assumes the role of corrector, and another student assumes the role of passive recipient of feedback.
Dialogic peer feedback should lead to more thorough text revision, and thus to higher quality products. However, it is still unclear whether such peer feedback exchange actually encourages students to reflect on higher order aspects of their text. Therefore, the aims of this study are to investigate whether dialogic peer feedback (1) results in conversations in which higher-order aspects are discussed more than in non-dialogic peer feedback, and (2) leads to more text revisions of higher-order aspects than non-dialogic peer feedback.