Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Teaching Peer Revision

This coming week, my senior seminar students will turn in their essay drafts (to our course management system, in the discussion area, where they're grouped into small groups), and then the next class session, they'll do peer revision.

So, taking Earnest English's suggestion, we spent a little time today reflecting on (in writing) and then talking about what made peer revision effective for them, and what made it ineffective.

My students suggested that really reading the draft carefully was vital.  yes.

Another suggested that they worry less about hurting feelings and more about giving real, honest criticism and feedback.  yes.

Another suggested that they give feedback in terms of questions, rather than directions.  (So more, a "I'm not sure what you're trying to get at here, can you explain it in different words?" than a "do this" sort of response.)  yes.

And one suggested that real, full drafts were much better to work with as revisers.  YES!

And we talked about problems, which mostly came down to people not reading carefully, or focusing on grammar rather than bigger picture stuffs.

I've asked them to give their peers one or two things to think about when they submit their drafts, so that they'll get the most helpful response possible. 

What do you do to help your students have a better peer revision experience?


  1. As I mentioned the other day, my Ren class was going to do a peer review in that class for the first time. All of them are junior English majors, and they all know each other (and me) well. There are only four students in the class. (They let it run because it was going to fulfill someone's requirement. Plus, they know I have 200 students in Humanities, so I can stand to have one small class.)

    So, I felt like it went well. Each student was supposed to share their paper with two other students. One of the students didn't have a fully formed draft, but just a lot of notes and scraps that she shared with her two people. But the rest of them had full drafts. We had a round table where they talked about each person's paper for about 15 minutes a piece, focusing on organization, argument, and supporting examples. It went really well. I think part of it is that it was such a small class that we were really able to focus a lot of time on each person and give some thoughtful feedback.

    The three that had full drafts are in good shape, but after they got their feedback (both written on their papers from their peers, and talked about in class with the group), they talked about what else they needed to do with the paper and how they were going to go about it. It was so great! Very professional -- everyone had good constructive things to say -- and I think we accomplished a lot. I can't wait to read their papers!!

    I think I'll try to do more peer review in upper level classes from now on. It was inspiring!

  2. Now that I think about it, it was run pretty much like a small SAA seminar. It was really great!

  3. I think the last point is key, whether the draft is going to be reviewed by peers, the professor, or both: it's really helpful to know where the author thinks the paper stands, so that reviewers don't spend a lot of time commenting on things the author already knows, but hasn't implemented yet, and so that any misunderstandings can be cleared up. Questions about particular places in the paper are also useful.

    1. Yes, getting a sense of the author's concerns helps. But sometimes writers really don't know what's not working well.