Integrating Peer Review
The following questions are designed to help you decide how you might best integrate peer review into the fabric of your course.
For what assignments will you plan peer reviews?
Although we tend to think of peer review as being reserved for large, end-of-semester essays or reports, peer reviews can be useful for any assignment that you plan to have students revise or build upon.
For lower-stakes assignments like outlines, reading responses, or early drafts, peer review can provide much-needed correction to students who are on the wrong track and offer students on the right track ideas for developing or expanding their work that they may not have considered on their own.
You might even encourage quick, fifteen-minute peer reviews for short papers like reading responses or sections of papers like “methods” sections of lab reports.
Used in this way, peer review can foster classroom community, help students build connections between the ideas they’re exploring in class and those they’re developing in their writing, and offer helpful feedback before students get too far into the drafting process.
Of course, peer review can also be helpful after students have completed a first draft of a paper. This allows a more sophisticated engagement with the ideas. You might also have students peer review parts of a paper at several points during the writing process. In this way, they can get feedback from several classmates and work on revising their ideas as they draft.
When will you hold peer review?
Peer reviews can be useful at any point in the semester, but it’s important to allow students enough time between the peer review and the draft due date for them to revise their papers and speak with you if they have any questions. Generally, conducting peer review a week before the due date will allow students sufficient time to revise, but students may require more or less time depending on the assignment.
How will you encourage student participation?
We’ll revisit this later, but peer review is much more effective if it is incentivized. We take both a carrot and stick approach: to ensure all students are present, we deduct points from papers that have not been peer-reviewed. (We fall somewhere between 5% and 20%, but we hope you will choose an incentive that fits your classroom.) To reward students for the difficult work of peer review, we grade their peer reviews and allow them to earn points by providing thoughtful, helpful feedback to their classmates.
The grading of peer reviews can easily be adapted – anything from a quick check/check plus system to a detailed review of students’ comments can be helpful. You might also consider including these points in participation grades, if that’s a part of your syllabus.
How will you handle logistics?
Since peer review sheets should go with the author at the end of the session, you may want want to think ahead about how you’ll collect sheets for grading. We usually have students email us their reviewer comments before class (in part to ensure that they come to class ready to conduct the review) and have them hand in reviews of their papers and their first drafts with their final papers (so we can then see their level of revision).
However you choose to handle the logistics of collecting peer review, requiring students to hand in their rough drafts and the comments they’ve received with their final papers can encourage them to keep track of their revision documents.
You may also want to consider peer review groups in advance. If students will be reviewing one assignment multiple times (or progressive or accumulative assignment) then setting unchanging groups for the semester means that readers enter later peer reviews with a sense of what the author’s goals are. However, switching up peer review groups can also be useful, providing students a broader understanding of the work that their classmates are doing and encouraging class discussion.
“Using Peer Review to Help Students Improve Writing.” The Teaching Center. Washington University in St. Louis. n.d. Web. 1 June 2014.
Kahn, Seth. “Written Take-Home Peer Review.” The School of Undergraduate Studies. at The University of Texas at Austin. n.d. Web. 1 June 2014.
Reid, Shelley. “Shelleyʼs (Quick) Guides for Writing Teachers: Full-Circle Peer Review.” George Mason University. June, 2008. Web. 1 June 2014.