Looking at someone else’s work gives students a sharper eye for nuance, potential misreadings, and mechanical flaws. It also helps them see their own writing through others’ eyes. Students in Writing Flag courses (all UGS 302s and some 303s) must have an opportunity to read one another’s work and offer constructive criticism. Most first-year students won’t produce brilliant criticism, but they can learn a great deal from seeing how their peers approach the same writing problems they tackle.
Peer feedback can convince a student to take an instructor’s comments more seriously. If, for example, two or three peers agree with the instructor that an explanation is unclear, the student is less able to rationalize criticism as coming from “a really picky professor.”
The following have all been used successfully in Signature Courses.
- Two or more students exchange drafts, take the papers home, and write reviews—ideally in response to a set of questions you provide. Seth Kahn employs this method.
- Using an overhead projector, analyze an anonymous student paper as a class or have each student take a turn.
- Students respond substantively to one another’s work in online forums. Professor Jerry Bump’s students use Blackboard’s Discussion Board to share and comment on papers.
Consistent Evaluative Criteria
Whatever method of peer review you choose, ask students to think about the grading criteria as they respond to peers’ writing. Don’t have students evaluate papers with one set of criteria, while you use another set to grade them
Peer review does not violate FERPA for students. UT’s Legal Affairs Office states that peer teaching is explicitly allowed under FERPA. The Supreme Court has held that even peer grading is allowed under FERPA protections.
Peer Review in Action
See how Pat Davis, Associate Dean of the College of Pharmacy, uses peer review in his Signature Course.