Trusted Space/OG

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Trusted Space
Contributors Steven Warburton, Joseph Bergin, Christian Kohls, Christian Köppe, Yishay Mor
Last modification July 3, 2017
Source Warburton et al. (2016)[1][2]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Summary: Create a trusted space to help promote deep learner engagement in shared review, dialogue and critique.


You have designed a suitable Peer Review (Peer Review) or Peer Assessment (Peer Assessment) activity for your students and want to encourage an atmosphere of trust to ensure that they are sensitive, respectful and committed to the process.


Asking students to share and discuss their work critically is important to learning. But you find that learners are anxious when confronted with this unfamiliar type of situation. They may focus on self-preservation, or feel uncomfortable when asked to engage in collaborative or shared review.

Certain issues can arise in situations where you ask students to share their work:
• Less able students can feel intimidated when put under scrutiny by others;
•The initial discomfort in sharing of work can result in stilted interactions between learners when they are asked to work openly with each other;
• Students reject the process as they identify the teacher as the expert and therefore the only legitimate source of acceptable feedback.


Explain and discuss the value of the shared activity and clearly define the learner role within it. Provide an Icebreaker (Icebreaker) activity to start this process and sensitize your learners to the importance of giving and taking good quality feedback. Use these mechanisms to encourage an atmosphere of trust within the teaching and learning space.

Solution details
The following steps can be used to cooperatively bring students into a trusted shared space:
• Describe the process that they will undertake and explain the value to the learners. This may be local (within the institution) or beyond;
• Understand student expectations by asking the learners to articulate their goals;
• Clarify your role as a teacher and facilitator in this process;
• Run a low risk experience before starting, such as an icebreaker activity, and ask them to reflect on this with their peers;
• Confirm their commitment to the process by gaining consensus on the steps within the peer activity.

Positive consequences

You can expect a deeper engagement with processes that demand students to share their work and their opinions. This will enhance their openness and sensitivity to the value of cooperative and collaborative working and sharing experience.

Watch out for

Not all learners are comfortable with being in a shared community space. It can push less communicative learners further away when in fact we want to bring them closer to the centre of the community so that they also derive full benefit. This is not applicable to summative forms of assessment. International applicability will be limited where teaching processes and roles are more traditional or heavily didactic i.e. teacher-active / student-passive.


The ‘writer’s workshop’ format[3] is a good example of this pattern in practice. The workshop has a number of protocols and steps that are specifically designed to develop and then maintain a trusted space. The writer’s workshop is an intimate review process for developing work that begins with a draft submission that is redrafted, through peer review, to a final publishable version. This pattern also draws on David Nicol’s ‘PEERToolkit’ project and the seven principles of good feedback practice[4].

Related patterns

Uses Icebreaker (Icebreaker)

Is used before Peer Review (Peer Review) and Peer Assessment (Peer Assessment)


  1. Patlet published in Warburton, S., Mor, Y., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., & Bergin, J. (2016). Assessment driven course design: a pattern validation workshop. Presented at 8th Biennial Conference of EARLI SIG 1: Assessment & Evaluation. Munich, Germany.
  2. Pattern published in Warburton, S., Bergin, J., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., & Mor, Y. (2016). Dialogical Assessment Patterns for Learning from Others. In Proceedings of the 10th Travelling Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (VikingPLoP 2016). New York:ACM.
  3. Gabriel, R. P. (2002). Writer's Workshops and the Work of Making Things. Addison-Wesley Longman Publishing Co., Inc..
  4. Nicol, D. J., & Macfarlane‐Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in higher education, 31(2), 199-218.