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The “Craft” of Peer Revision: Part IV

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In this series we’ve looked at a few ways to make the craft of peer revision more “crafty.”  All of these exercises tend to be a big hit in my classes and I usually end up with stronger papers to grade because of this work. But why?  Why do students do this work so enthusiastically and so well?  I have some theories:
  • Fun Factor.  Most of the students in the writing classes I teach are there because they have to be—the class is required.  Most of them also have a troubled relationship to writing, thinking they’re not very good at it for example.  Introducing craft-based activities introduces an element of fun into something many students find to be very hard work.
  • Nostalgia.  Teetering on the edge of adult responsibilities, students are reminded of a simpler time with these activities, a time filled with nap time and recess instead of exams and papers.
  • Switched Registers.  All of these exercises switch into a new register, allowing students a new perspective on writing, one in which they might see completely different things in their work.
  • Learning Modes.  Similarly, these activities touch on visual and kinesthetic learning in ways that can engage students who tend to learn in those modes.
I suspect there are other factors at play here and I will love to hear your thoughts.  Do you have any “crafty” exercises?  Why do you think they tend to work so well?
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September 13, 2015 Dear Dr. Barrios, I would like to say how much I enjoy your compilation of contemporary readings in your book, Emerging. I have been reading your blog and find your views on teaching composition insightful, straightforward, and engaging. I am truly disappointed that you are not my professor in my ENC1102 class at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). I am writing to you regarding the "craft" of peer revision. FAU has tried to incorporate your ideas concerning peer revision into the classroom setting; however, as I am sure this process works in more scholarly schools, it is not working at FAU. For example: As I proudly handed over my rough paper to my "peer" for his comments, I received back nothing but an arrow pointing up suggesting that my format was incorrect. It was not. No constructive criticism, no suggestions, only a quick comment, "looks good to me." Clearly, this student, who reeked from last night’s party, was not qualified to evaluate my work. However, I spent the entire class reviewing his paper and making the suggestions needed to formulate and organize his ideas according to his thesis. Meanwhile, with this complaint, I sent my draft to whom I thought was my professor. I now know that he is a visiting instructor who has not yet earned his Master's Degree in English/Writing. I do not receive any discount on my tuition due to his lack of qualifications. This contention I will address with the head of the English Department. This instructor did assure me several times that he would review my paper and give me markups. He commented that he had never had a student finish a paper so quickly. Weeks passed and several emails later, I received no feedback. In class he said he would get to it. I emailed him again asking that since he had no markups, should I assume the paper will receive an A grade? No response was received. On the day the final draft was due I turned in my paper and received it back with notes which should have been on my rough draft markups and I received a B grade on the assignment. Much to my surprise, and frankly astonishment, my "peer" also received a B on his paper. Again, pungent from the prior evening’s social activities, he bragged about how he did not write his paper and that his father and the instructor are friends. Frankly, I don’t care who wrote his paper. That is his loss of education, not mine. The point is that in this case the peer review was a complete failure. This person is not my peer. I have been striving to write scholarly papers since my first year in high school. As part of the Global Perspectives/debate class I have won many awards and ultimately became the President of the Debate team. I am planning on attending law school after college and need the highest possible grades. For the last four years I have been the lead prosecutor for the Palm Beach County Juvenile Youth Court system. I am ranked number one in the United State for mock trial. I would like to write and edit the Law Review. I take my work seriously. I have great respect for you as a professor with a PhD. Your credentials are impeccable. The book you wrote which we are using in this class, Emerging is one of my favorites. I enjoyed being exposed to readings that I may not have had the opportunity to explore. I am grateful to you for that. I am not writing to you to intercede for me. I will handle this. I am writing because if my book were being used as it is in this class, I would be quite disturbed. There are fifteen mistakes on the prompt for the next assignment. They are mainly format and punctuation; but I ask you, what kind of message does this send to the student? My job is to evaluate, produce, and express my ideas using critical thinking in a written paper. How can a student accomplish this when the visiting instructor does not possess skills or credentials required to evaluate and advise the students assigned to him/her? Respectfully, Miles DeAngelo First year student at Florida Atlantic University
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.