Various Methods for Conducting 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.


In my last post, I provided instructors with a step-by-step approach on how to conduct peer review in an online environment. I suggested the following steps:


Step #1: Teach students what peer review is, what it does, how to do it, and why it’s valuable.

Step #2: Teach students what constitutes “good” writing for any given assignment.

Step #3: Choose an online platform to facilitate peer review based on the advantages and drawbacks of the platform.

Step #4: Choose a peer review activity that best suits the needs of the assignment and your students.

Step #5: Make students accountable for providing and using peer feedback for revisions.


In the fourth step of the process, instructors can choose from a myriad of peer review activities. Below I offer six kinds of peer review activities with brief examples, all of which can be used in face-to-face courses and adapted for an online environment. They are organized into different categories according to the extent to which they are structured and the level of direct engagement students may have with each other.


Structured silent peer review

This peer review activity is the most commonly used in face-to-face courses and in online environments. The instructor first creates a detailed list of peer review questions. Students then access the questions, exchange their papers, and respond to the instructor’s questions. In an online environment, students can exchange their papers and response in a number of ways. For example, students could upload their papers to an LMS or a third-party platform. Peers can download the papers and write question responses in a comment box. Click here for an example of this kind of peer review activity.


Student-directed silent peer review

This kind of peer review activity is student-centered and student driven. Each student is responsible for eliciting the kind of feedback they think would be most helpful at this stage of the writing process. One common structure for such an activity is to ask each student to identify 2-3 strengths of their paper; 2-3 parts of their paper they believe needs strengthening; and a list of specific questions in which they want their peers to respond. In an online environment, for example, students exchange papers, including their peer review guidelines at the top of the paper, in their LMS or on a third-party platform. The student peer reviewer downloads the paper and provides comments in a document or in a comment box. This peer review activity is most effective when the instructor models how to respond to questions and take up the author’s self-identified strengths and weaknesses. 


Combination of structured/student-directed silent peer review

This kind of peer review combines the structured silent peer review approach with the student-directed peer review. An instructor invites students to ask for specific feedback from their peers and provides peer reviewers with a list of questions in which to respond. Click here for an example of this kind of peer review.


Structured oral peer review
A structured oral peer review is a synchronous activity that is carefully facilitated by the instructor, with either direct instruction on how students should engage and comment on each other’s work or loose guidelines for how they might talk about their work. In an online environment, Zoom break-out rooms can be utilized for this kind of peer review. Please note the instructor must ensure each student has access to other’s papers before and/or during the review conversation. One example of this kind of peer review is The Gossipy Peer Review, my all-time favorite activity described in this Bedford Bits blog post.


Student-directed oral peer review

Like the structured oral peer review approach, the student-directed oral peer review is a synchronous activity. The student-directed oral peer review is simply an online conversation, perhaps in Zoom break-out rooms, wherein students speak to one another about their papers. I find this approach most effective when instructors provide a basic framework for how to approach a conversation. Students may stray away from the task at hand without such support. Click here for one example of guidelines I designed for my students in an audio storytelling class. 


Semi-structured student-directed oral or written peer review

This peer review approach is student-directed with some structure and can either be used in a synchronous environment or for a written assignment. Instructors provide students with a set of flexible guidelines and ask them to use these guidelines to give their peers feedback. My favorite peer activity in this category is the use of Bill Harts-Davison’s “Describe, Evaluate Suggest” heuristic. Students engage with this video to understand the method, then use the method to provide feedback on their peer’s work. This feedback approach is most successful when it is modeled by the instructor. Click here to see what this activity could look like in an LMS.