Thursday, January 25, 2007

Getting started with peer review

What is peer review? How will it help you improve your reading and writing skills?

Peer reviews, where students read drafts of their fellow students' essays in order to make suggestions for revision, are common in first-language composition pedagogy. This technique fosters the idea that writing is a process of communicating to an authentic audience. How beneficial are peer reviews for ESL composition students? Many ESL students report that peer reviews help them revise their drafts. However, some students say that their peers were not able to give useful advice. These students' responses suggest that peer reviews can be helpful to students during the drafting process, but that students need to learn how to become successful critics who can evaluate writing and make good suggestions. Learning how to be an effective peer reviewer takes time and effort. It is not automatic. Learning how to look at someone else's writing also teaches you how to look at your own writing. Peer review also helps you become a more careful and insightful reader.

Here's more about peer review for you to read.

Before you review one another's writing, however, you must first read articles in English and then respond in writing to your reading. We'll start with a "reading response," which is mostly a commentary on & personal response to a reading. A reading response briefly summarizes the main ideas and comments on them, giving the reader's opinion and impressions. I'll post guidelines and links for both reading reflections and for peer reviewing.

First, let's pick several topics to read and write about. Then I will look for links to articles - essays, editorials, analyses, etc. on those topics. The pieces we start with should be short and not too difficult to read. I'll post links to a selection of articles or essays for everyone in the class to read. You can't comment intelligently on what your classmates write unless you have also read the piece they are writing about. We can also discuss and comment on the readings before you write your reading responses to specific articles. Discussion shares ideas and helps you think about what you read. Sharing ideas and impressions about reading also helps you write about what you read.

What topics should we read about? One topic could be on child rearing or early childhood development. Perhaps another could be on labor, globalization, or the environment. What else?

We don't want too many because that might be too much reading. Reading commentaries all on the same piece does not seem very interesting. Having 3-4 topics for you to choose from and short pieces for you to write at least a couple of well developed paragraphs about seems reasonable.

Everyone needs to read all of the pieces. You can't comment on what a classmate has written about a piece unless you have read the piece too. Those writing reading responses will pick just one piece to write about. Some of you are just starting out in the class and not ready to write much. I still expect you to read the articles the others are writing about. I also expect you to comment on what your classmates have written.

In closing - read the peer review handout and think about topics. Post your comments on the handout and your topic suggestions as comments to this post. Please do not post them as new messages.

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