WRITE ON — Fall 2016 — Week 4

A Case for Peer Review

As researchers and scholars, we often lean heavily on our colleagues and disciplinary communities to shape our work. Each time we send early notes for an article or book to a colleague down the hall or submit a polished draft to a journal or publisher for formal feedback, we are engaging in what we might call in our classes “peer response.” Although it is common for teachers and students alike to have reservations about peer response activities, creating opportunities for our students to receive feedback from their peers can be just as productive for them as it is for us.

In her chapter “Approaches to Productive Peer Review,” Fiona Paton reminds us that while peer review ”is not  a magical process that will automatically result in a better paper,” it has numerous benefits for student authors and student readers alike (291). Peer review encourages writers to think about how drafting and revising work together and helps them to develop a “more concrete sense of audience and the valuable insight that language does not always do what its author intended”; “For readers, [it] provides training in critical analysis” and “helps them to develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t” in writing (291). Paton offers a set of guidelines derived from her own teaching experiences that can help us get the most out of our peer response practices. Such best practices include reassuring students that they should “respond as supportive and interested peers” rather than as substitutes for the teacher (292); modeling the types of responses we’d like our students to provide to one another with the whole class (292); supplying a few specific prompts or tasks for reviewers to be responsible for (294); leaving space for students to provide their own questions for their reviewers (294); and designating enough time for students to engage in the peer response process and to talk about their responses with one another (295, 298). It may take a few sessions for students to form the habits involved with responding meaningfully to one another’s work, but once they get the hang of the practice, assigning peer review can save you time commenting on students’ early drafts and can help make your students more self-sufficient rhetors and learners.

Paton, Fiona. “Approaches to Productive Peer Review.” Strategies for Teaching First-Year Composition. Eds. Roen et al. Urbana, Illinois: NCTE, 2002. Print. 290-300.