Teachers frequently use student peer review to increase the amount of feedback students receive on their writing and speaking assignments. Choose any item below to learn more about how to integrate peer review into your classroom:
Peer review is excellent way to enhance your students' writing experience. Below are some ways to make the most out of a peer review session:
The logistics of peer review are generally simple, but they do require some forethought. If you want students to read papers in a round-robin exercise or to exchange papers with one other student, you don't need to require any photocopying. But if you want each student to read three other papers, make sure you remind students to bring three copies of their papers to class on the day of the exchange.
You can let students pick their own peer-review partners or group members, but you might also consider assigning peer reviewers based on your knowledge of students' writing and editing skills.
If you hold in-class peer-review sessions, circulate during the session to make sure students are on track and to intervene as necessary. Also, save a few minutes at the end of the session to discussion common problems with the class as a whole.
Even if you decide to let students do an "open" review (in which they imagine themselves as members of the target audience and give "reader response" reactions), make that task clear as you set up the peer-review session.
If you want to have students review particular features of a paper, make sure that those tasks are clear and precise. Although you can list tasks on the board, students often prefer a worksheet that notes specific tasks. If students can write their commentary on a word processor, they are likely to write more extensive comments, so take advantage of computer supports whenever possible.
Although most students will have had experience with peer review in writing classes in high school and freshman composition, students can still benefit from understanding each teacher's expectations of the peer-review session. One of the most effective techniques is to provide a sample student paper (either as a handout or on overhead transparencies) and to elicit class comments on each point on your workshop sheet. Teachers can then elaborate on points students bring up or clarify what writing skills the points on the workshop sheet are designed to help students review.
If you want students to look for particular features of a paper, try having them do so in a step-by-step fashion. Students often feel most comfortable moving through a sequence from simply identifying a feature, to evaluating it, to suggesting revisions. Particularly if you give students multiple peer-review opportunities, keep this sequence in mind. Create each workshop sheet so that it builds upon the prior one. And as you design these worksheets, label each level of task clearly so that students know if they are to identify or suggest revisions as part of a given peer-review session.
The longer the paper or the more complex the criteria, the longer students will take to complete a thorough peer review. If you assign shorter papers, you can easily devote a part of a class to peer review or ask students to complete the peer review outside of class. But if you assign long, complex papers, consider breaking the peer review into several short chunks. For instance, students might complete one peer reading looking just for problems with focus, another for weaknesses in organization and development, and still another on graphics. Finally, students might have one or two additional peer-review sessions devoted exclusively to mechanics.
If you're concerned about taking so much class time for multiple peer reviews, consider the alternatives outlined under "Do I need to give students class time for peer-review sessions?"
The least helpful comment to receive from a peer reviewer is "It looks OK to me." We want students to find strengths or positive features in a draft, but we need to encourage them to be as specific as possible, both about strengths and weaknesses.
As you model how to give effective commentary in peer review, remind students of the following points:
If students don't see the value of peer review, they are unlikely to spend much time reviewing others' papers or to take peer advice seriously. The most effective way to encourage students to take peer review seriously, both as the reviewer and as the writer, is to include effective peer review as part of the overall grade for the paper. Skimming peer review comments will take just a few minutes (even for multiple reviews of complex papers), and you'll quickly see which students provided the most helpful commentary. Alternatively, you can ask students to rank their peer reviewers and base the peer review part of grade on peer ratings.
If you're uncomfortable weighing the quality of peer reviewing in the paper grade, consider dividing the course grade to include a separate class participation or peer-reviewing grade.
Remind students that they are responsible for the final drafts they submit to you, but that they should carefully weigh each comment they receive from a peer reviewer. Comments that suggest radically different revisions of the same part of a paper generally help writers see various ways to revise but may confuse students about what to do. Students need not choose one of the suggested revisions, but they should note that multiple suggestions pointed at the same part of a paper typically highlight a place where some revision is necessary for readers.
Five sample workshop sheets are provided below.
Editor's name and phone number:_____________________
The primary purpose of this worksheet is to insure that the writer has developed a convincing argument. Imagine, then, that you are the writer's opponent (and so be sure to identify the target audience). Try your best to spot the weaknesses in the essay you are reading. In effect, you will be helping the writer to make sure that s/he has a convincing argument BEFORE it is submitted in the portfolio.
Reader's Telephone Number: _____________________
Ask the writer what questions or concerns he or she has about the paper. Read the paper carefully and respond to those points before you complete the rest of this worksheet.
Read the paper carefully and answer the following questions.
This workshop sheet will help you attend to stylistic matters as you polish close-to-final drafts. If the writer needs to make major changes in content or organization, do not use this sheet. If you notice stylistic matters that this sheet does not address but that the writer should work on, be sure to discuss those with the writer.
Reader's Telephone Number: _____________________
Writer's Name: ___________________________
Editor's Name and Phone Number: ___________________________________
Read through the paper completely before answering any of the following questions.
Kate Kiefer. (2018). Using Student Peer Review. The WAC Clearinghouse. Retrieved from https://wac.colostate.edu/resources/teaching/guides/peer-review/. Originally developed for Writing@CSU (https://writing.colostate.edu).