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Peer review is any activity that involves an individual getting feedback from someone else. In this situation, we’ll be referring to a writer getting feedback from a peer who reads their draft.
Peer review is a practice used in writing communities, academia and many professional enterprises because of the valuable insight it provides writers and readers. It is a good practice to engage students in group exercises as it provides many valuable opportunities.
Below you will find some helpful suggestions for conducting peer review activities in any classroom.
Schedule specific dates on your course calendar for peer review sessions at the beginning of the semester. It can be a great idea to include a mock session on the calendar as well. This can help acclimate students and model your expectations for peer reviews before your students engage in it.
Give focused, actionable directives for the session. The clearer the expectations, the better your chances are of facilitating a successful peer review session. We strongly advise having students fill out some kind of peer response form. Here’s an example of a peer response form.
By encouraging your students to fill out a peer response form you’ll help create accountability in the peer review process, provide context to keep reviewers focused on what you value in responses (rather than grammatical corrections), and the writer will have a form to refer back to rather than trying to remember the feedback on their own.
Plan your peer review day. Like any class, peer review day requires planning. Consider how big you want your groups to be. We recommend limiting the size of the groups to three, so students can see two other people’s drafts, and so each person has enough time to receive feedback. Create the peer review form and make notes of anything you want to emphasize when you share the forms with the students. Think about how you’ll present the peer review day to the students.
Instruct students to bring multiple hard copies to class on the scheduled day. They should have one copy for each person in their group. This is a great time to mention that they can print in the computer labs on campus, or in the Writing Center!
For online classes, have the students make a virtual copy for each peer review partner. Have them add the name of the reviewer to each peer-reviewed draft. It is a good idea to use a “suggest changes” here so the students can see what changes the reviewers have made.
Set expectations for the peer review day for students. Let the students know ahead of time that a peer review date is coming up. Share with them your guidelines for the peer review process. This can be a good time to model how you give feedback and how students can give helpful, high-level feedback to their peers.
Consider if and how you might offer credit for peer review activities. Some instructors require students to include completed peer response forms when turning in their assignments. Others ask students to provide evidence of how the feedback from peer review sessions was incorporated in their revisions. And some professors request both proof or revisions and peer review sheets as part of the student’s final submission.
Allow one full class session for the activity. By full class session, we mean roughly 50-75 minutes.
Consider structuring the time during the session. By this, we mean allow 15 minutes for quiet reading so all students can read the papers and complete the feedback forms without rushing. Then give 15 minutes for writers to read the feedback forms and discuss them with peer reviewers. This can help guide students to know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.
Allow students to find a quiet space to work together. It can sometimes be helpful to let students move out into hallways or common areas so your classroom doesn’t get too loud. This can help some students focus better.
Encourage students to provide written and verbal feedback to each other, in turn. While the response form can help guide the discussion, it is likely the discussion will go beyond the questions on the form.
Monitor groups. It’s important to take note of how the peer review sessions are going. Some students might need some extra encouragement and guidance to get the most out of their peer review sessions.
Dedicate time during the next class to evaluate the peer review session collectively. Offer your own observations. Inquire about the students’ experiences. This can be helpful for refining and creating more meaningful peer review sessions in the future.
Give feedback on the students’ feedback. We’re all learning how to become better writers and readers, so why not give students feedback on their feedback-giving skills? Take note of the things that they noted that were most helpful, and areas of opportunity. By providing feedback on the peer response form, you’ll be nurturing creativity, critical thinking, and verbal skills.
Learn more about the peer review experience in this video by MIT Comparative Media Studies and Writing program.
Have any additional questions about conducting peer review sessions? Reach out to [email protected] The Writing Center is here to support you and your students. You can even request a consultant join you on your peer review day to help support your students!
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