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For Instructors

Peer Review

Students learn to write by doing: drafting, reading, feedback, revising, talking about writing. Peer review can help students learn to re-see their own writing, as well help them be good readers. They learn how to give constructive, respectful feedback to their peers and colleagues, and as they offer feedback to their peers, students may begin rethinking their own writing and processes, becoming more aware of strategies and options that they can use in other writing situations.

As a writer, it’s important to identify possibilities for revision and editing. Peer review helps students be purposeful with their writing choices. Some research has shown that students who receive focused feedback from at least four peers have better revision than those who received instructor feedback only (Ambrose et. al 257). 

Designing Effective Peer Review 

  • Identify learning objectives for the writing assignment, and align the peer review activity with those learning objectives. Providing students with a guided peer review activity can help offset the “this is good” comments or the over-focus on grammar and copyediting. Helping students provide targeted feedback in early peer review activities will help them further develop their feedback skills. 

  • Teach students how to do good peer response by modeling – engage students in whole-class peer review using a sample paper. Show your students what you expect from them during peer review by modeling the process. There is no way to know what their previous peer review experiences have been, so offering a whole class model can help establish expectations early on. 

  • Design the peer review activity by considering all elements of the writing assignment. Think about the moments of intervention throughout the assignment. When will students receive peer feedback vs. instructor feedback? What in-class activities will students have completed prior to peer review? These considerations can help you scaffold students’ feedback throughout the assignment. 

Things to Consider and Examples

  • Text: What will you ask students to share?

    • Consider learning objectives for the peer response activity. 

    • Consider the time that all students need to read, think about, and respond. Be mindful of different learning styles and language experiences.  

  • Activity: What questions will students address?

    • Ask the writer to reflect.

    • Connect questions to learning objectives. Scaffold questions: (a) IDENTIFY (b) DESCRIBE (c) REFLECT (d) SUGGEST

    • Ask reviewers to be readers. Create questions that ask students to DESCRIBE THE WRITING and IDENTIFY POSSIBILITIES

  • Example: Summary & Analysis

    • Highlight summary in one color, analysis in another. 

    • Describe balance between summary and analysis.

    • Reflect on quality of analysis, and ask writer questions to further develop analysis. 

  • Example: Focus

    • Highlight what’s most interesting to you in one color. In another color, highlight what readers will already know. 

    • Write a letter to the writer about why that interested you. Describe how they can restructure the essay to develop that most interesting idea. 

Further Reading 

  • Ambrose, Susan et. al. “What Is Reader Response/Peer Review and How Can We Use It?” How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching, Ebook, Jossey-Bass, 2010, pp. 257-9. 

  • Bean, John C. “Have Students Conduct Peer Reviews of Drafts.” Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom, 2nd Edition, Jossey-Bass, 2011, pp. 295-302. 

  • Glenn, Cheryl and Melissa A. Goldthwaite “Collaboration: Workshops and Peer Response.” The St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing, 7th Edition, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014, pp. 70-9.

  • Salahub, Jill. “Peer Review.” The WAC Clearinghouse, Colorado State University, 1994-2020, https://wac.colostate.edu/resources/writing/guides/peer-review/.