In semesters past, I’ve done a variety of peer review techniques: small groups, one-on-one conversation, written feedback. With students consistently preferring the written feedback, about 3 semesters ago I began using only that.
I’ve also found that if students are working on separate projects but with common sources, the feedback is better. Today, for example, my FYC students have brought in drafts of their analysis of a single source. But the class is divided into three groups, each analyzing a different source. However, we’ve all read, worked with, and are familiar with all three sources. So today the folks who wrote analyses of Steven Johnson’s article are reading the analyses of students who were assigned Jamais Cascio’s piece; those who wrote analyses of Cascio are reading the analyses of students who were assigned Nicolas Carr; and so forth. They are not peer reviewing papers that responded to their own prompt, and that removes all student concerns about someone else pilfering their good ideas. This makes peer review purely magical.
And here’s the direction sheet I gave them:
Peer response to analysis drafts
- Don’t write on the paper you are reviewing
2. Open an email; address it to the writer; copy it to me (REHOWARD@SYR.EDU)
3. Take up the role of coach
4. Analyze the draft you are reading for these rhetorical concerns we’ve been tracking:
(a) How does this draft construct its audience, and how might it do so better?
(b) How effectively does word choice convey its message?
(c) As you read the draft, what do you see as its thesis? Copy it into your email. What advice do you have for revising that thesis?
(d) As you read the draft, what do you see as its evidence? List it in your email. What advice do you have for improving that evidence?
(e) As you read the draft, what do you see as its counterevidence? List it in your email. What advice do you have for improving that counterevidence?
(f) Where do you see the writer making logos-based rhetorical appeals? How effective are they? What suggestions for revision do you have?
(g) Where do you see the writer making pathos-based rhetorical appeals? How appropriate are they? What suggestions for revision do you have?
(h) As you read this draft, how authoritative does the writer sound—what sort of ethos does s/he project? What suggestions for revision do you have?
(i) What additional comments or advice do you have for the writer?
5. Send the email. Put the draft you’ve been reading on the bottom of the stack, and take another classmate’s paper off the top of the stack.