Supporting Students in Recognizing the Value of Peer Review

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Today’s guest blogger is Tanya Rodrigue‌, an associate professor in English and coordinator of the Writing Intensive Curriculum Program at Salem State University in Massachusetts.


My last two blog posts, “Facilitating Online Peer Review” and “Various Methods for Conducting Peer Review,” provides instructors with a scaffolded approach for orchestrating online peer review as well as several different peer review methods and activities that can be employed in an online or face-to-face environment. While a pedagogical approach and directed activities are sure to create a productive environment, the only way students will find peer review productive is if they believe it is a valuable activity and will result in feedback that will help them revise their work. Students who believe in peer review as a worthwhile endeavor are more likely to give productive feedback to their peers as well as take up peer feedback for the purposes of revision. Yet how do we persuade our students that peer review is valuable? In this post, I offer several possibilities for doing so.


#1 Deconstruct the notion that peer review is only for “struggling writers.”

Students often think any kind of revision feedback, whether it be in peer review or at the writing center or from an instructor, is an indication that they are not a “good” writer. Many think that if they were a “good writer,” they wouldn’t have any “mistakes” and thus not need to revise their work at all. Students need to be explicitly told that feedback is not synonymous with mistakes and is one of the strongest mechanisms in helping people grow as writers and thinkers.


#2 Share your experiences with peer review.

Students don’t often recognize that their own professors engage in peer review on a regular basis, either giving or receiving feedback. Students would benefit from knowing the circumstances in which professors partake in peer review and the peer review processes. For example, a professor might discuss the process of journal manuscript submissions with students and show them real peer revision recommendation letters. They may talk students through the process of what they decided to take up and how they decided to revise based on particular suggestions. They might then discuss the differences between the original submission and the revised document.  An activity like this would help students immediately recognize that teachers and students share something in common: they are all writers in an academic setting who receive feedback in efforts to revise and strengthen their writing.


#3 Show students the value of feedback using student work.

Students can see the true value of peer feedback in the classroom by looking at other students’ work. An instructor, for example, may ask students to read through a previous student’s draft, the feedback comments they received on the draft, and the revised version that took up some feedback suggestions. A strong revised piece of writing that used feedback effectively would show other students the instrumental role they and their peers could play in supporting one another in producing effective writing.


#4 Show students peer (in the broadest sense) review is ubiquitous.

While students may buy in to peer review from learning about its function and value in an academic setting, they are more likely to be persuaded when they understand peer review in broad terms and that it happens in all shapes and forms in life outside the academy. A peer can be thought of as anyone who understands and is willing to read one’s work, and this act can occur in both personal and in public spaces. Students would benefit from specific examples of how professionals and everyday people provide each other with feedback for the purposes of revision. For example, a person on a marketing team might ask their boss for revision feedback on a PowerPoint presentation. A grandmother might ask her adult grandchild to give revision feedback on a letter to an insurance company. A musician might ask their band manager for feedback on a song. People read and give each other feedback in all different settings, inside and outside of school. The recognition of feedback in personal and public spaces normalizes and destigmatizes the practice of peer review and positions it as a common way in which people strengthen their writing.


The combination of fostering student buy-in and using a scaffolded approach to orchestrating peer review is sure to create an atmosphere in which students, their writing, their feedback, and their interaction with each other are important and are valued.