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Peer Review

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Peer review can be an invaluable addition to instructor comments on drafts and to instructor-student conferences. Peer review helps students by giving them occasion to assess closely work-in-progres, engages students more fully with the rubric, and provides examples of others’ work.

Planning Peer Review

When planning a peer review session for your class, consider these suggestions:

  • Peer review is most effective when it is fully introduced and supported in the class. Thus, before starting peer review, model a peer review session by, for example, projecting a sample essay on the board and talking as a class about how to effectively offer comments on it.
  • Call it peer review not peer editing, as editing implies fixing minor errors and this word may prevent students from really engaging with each other's papers.
  • Specify and delimit the tasks: if you've been talking in class about introductions and use of secondary sources, then have peer reviewers focus on these.
  • Encourage students to frame their feedback in terms of the rubric you use so that they can engage together with the expectations embodied in the rubric. However, it is not recommended that students rate each other using rubrics both because scoring drafts is not in the spirit of formative feedback and because asking students’ to judge each other writings puts them in an uncomfortable, potentially unsupportive relation to each other.
  • Consider having student-writers introduce their paper to their partner and say something about the questions or concerns they have.
  • Consider the benefits and drawbacks of having students offer oral vs. written comments on each other’s essay—ideally, a combination of both is best. If students only receive written comments on their essay, they might not understand how to prioritize the feedback or how to make sense of the comments. If students only receive oral comments, you—as the instructor—have no way to gauge the quality of the feedback.
  • Groups of three work well because each writer can receive feedback from two reviewers.
  • Schedule in-class peer review with enough time for students to make revisions to their essays before the final essay deadline. Giving students just a day or two to implement changes can discourage students from making time-consuming and substantive changes to their essays even if these changes might improve them.