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Disciplines & Themes

  • Language Learners
  • Academic Skills

Learning focus:  

  • Language and academic skill development
  • Reflection

Design focus:

  • PebblePad Workbooks
  • Formative feedback
  • Peer review

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Enhancing A Global Perspective With Local Know-How

The University of Waterloo is located in the heart of Canada's technology hub, and is growing its network of global partnerships and building bridges with industry, institutions and communities. A leader in experiential learning, Waterloo strives to make the world the classroom for their students and PebblePad is delighted to support student learning both within and beyond the boundaries of their classrooms. For this project, PebblePad was employed to support a program that helps international students to build their English language and academic skills within the context of their discipline and aims to familiarize them with the academic expectations associated with their new learning environment, including responding to feedback.

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University of Waterloo - PebblePad Partnership

The initial software used, prior to the adoption of PebblePad, had limitations that led to a view of the eportfolio not as a means of supporting the writing and feedback process, but as a ‘clunky’ and superfluous add-on to the course. The adoption of PebblePad made eportfolio use both purposeful and meaningful.


The 'Promoting Engagement With Feedback' Ambition 

The Bridge to Academic Success in English (BASE) program is a pathway for international English language learners at the University of Waterloo. The program has been designed to help students build their language and academic skills so that they may be successful in their full degree studies. ePortfolios were incorporated into the design of courses that focus on the development of academic writing and research skills.

The team needed a tool to support an approach that would:

  • make visible the processes of receiving, reflecting upon, applying and giving feedback

  • fulfill additional principles of good feedback practice

  • encourage self-assessment

  • facilitate instructor and peer dialogue around learning.


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 In order to structure a truly effective approach, it was necessary to investigate the expectations most students have of feedback and what it can achieve and build in opportunities to actualize such features within PebblePad. PebblePad has the capacity to both provoke and extend dialogue around feedback and thus, for our purposes, facilitate various forms of language development. 

The Successful Workflow

The adoption of PebblePad in 2019 provided an opportunity to redesign the BASE writing courses. PebblePad workbooks have been implemented across all of the program's writing courses to facilitate an 'assessment as learning' model that streamlines the purpose, timelines and mechanisms of feedback within a process approach to writing. PebblePad makes the act of giving, receiving, processing and acting upon feedback visible to instructors, students and the learning community. In turn, the visibility of engagement is enhanced.

Workbooks are housed within shared workspaces, openly viewed in the assessment space, ATLAS, by everyone in each course. Structured templates provide a framework to guide students through the writing and redraft process to self-assess their own skills, set learning goals, target specific areas of feedback, and ultimately provide evidence of the application of that feedback in their final submission.

The PebblePad Workbook flow:

  • Skill identification and focus

  • Peer review

  • Reflection on feedback and goal setting

  • Application of feedback with evidence.

In addition to receiving instructor feedback, students engage in a ‘live’ peer review process. The PebblePad workbook therefore essentially documents an evolving series of feedback ‘experiences’ on which students may reflect. Evaluation of workbooks, including components of reflection, peer review and application of feedback, is incorporated into assignment rubrics.

           Our PebbleVision video, while not specifically about this case study,  provides a brief overview of how PebblePad can support            some of the pedagogical and pebblegogical practices discussed in this case study.


The PebblePad Difference

PebblePad allows instructors to see how students are engaging with feedback at various stages in the writing and feedback process. Instructors believe that their feedback has become more responsive and more focused toward the skills students themselves identified as most important. Through the use of PebblePad, students have the opportunity to see themselves as agents of their own development as writers.

PebblePad helped the University of Waterloo achieve these benefits ...

  • Active student engagement with feedback through capturing skill development and goal setting

  • Instructor engagement with feedback and reflection on the quality of that feedback

  • A more meaningful peer review process

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