7 Tips for Peer Review

Who’s got a successful peer review strategy to share?

My usual includes these techniques:

1. Teach peer review: instruct students how to provide feedback, give them examples of feedback comments, show them papers revised based on comments, and have them practice crafting feedback as a class or in small groups.

2. Writers reflect in discussion and in writing before and after each review and archive their reflections.

3. We peer review projects multiple times during different stages of the process, e.g. outlining, mid-draft, and final draft.

4. We do this work in pairs or small groups, and reviewers are given specific criteria to review. They focus first on content and organization and later on sentence-level issues and formatting. Criteria are based on grading rubric.

5. Writers bring multiple copies of their paper so their group members and I can look over the work.

6. Reviewers must respond to writing in full sentences on a separate page, labeling that page with their name, the writer’s name, and the date. Reviewer comments are returned to the writer.

7. To ensure accountability, reviewer comments and drafts from peer review days are due with the final draft of the paper.

A new technique I’d like to try is one designed by a past colleague of mine. It does not require pair or group work. Instead, students pass their paper back so everyone has someone else’s draft. Then, the instructor writes a key review question on the board or displays it on the overhead. Students must respond read the paper with that question in mind and then write 3-5 sentences in reply.

Next, students hand the commented-on paper back and repeat the process, but this time with a new question.

Questions should be open-ended and based on assignment criteria. Here are some examples:

Does the paper draft have a single, overall point that responds directly to the writing assignment? What sentence do you think best expresses that point?

How would you describe the organization of the paper draft? Is it as effective as possible, or could it be improved by adding/revising topic sentences, concluding sentences, and transitions between ideas?

Does the paper draft provide enough detail or evidence to support its assertions or argumentative claims? Why or why not?

These rounds can be repeated 3-5 times, and each round may take around 10-15 minutes.

The benefit of this strategy is that students focus on content, organization, and specific assignment criteria one element at a time.

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