Jo Lien (Facebook, LinkedIn) is an English instructor at North Idaho College. She started using Eli Review in her fall 2015 courses because she wanted to “more effectively engage online learners in the authentic peer review that they need in order to become more skilled writers and to engage in a community of peers”.
In the academic year since then, Jo has assigned 128 review tasks to her students and generated 14,374 comments, totaling 273,084 words of feedback. That’s an impressive level of engagement for any instructor, let alone someone using Eli for their first year!
What motivated you to try Eli Review?
In teaching online first-year writing courses, I have found that peer review presents a unique challenge; too often students approach online review activities as a mind-numbing tasks to check off their lists rather than authentic learning opportunities.
It’s no wonder that they feel this way. Most first-year writers lack confidence in their own skills as well as access to good models of peer review behaviors, and most LMS’s lack peer review platforms that are founded on strong teaching pedagogy.
The first time using any new strategy or tool can be difficult. What were your challenges, and how did you work through them?
I still have a lot of the problems with disengaged students and students who are aggressive in tone despite coaching, but I’ve worked on strategizing ways to minimize their impact on other writers. Primarily, I have been putting students in larger groups (4-5) and having multiple reviews of the same writing so they get more eyes on their work (and hopefully a broader perspective).
How did Eli help you accomplish your goals?
Eli helped make writing instruction more tangible for my students, especially when I was careful to link class lessons to the review tasks (even more so when class lessons were a follow-up to the review tasks). Eli helped me to guide students into meaningful independent practice: I would introduce concepts in class, we would practice together, and then students would practice independently during the reviews, which took place outside of class. When students actually had to apply concepts that were taught in class, they took more ownership of the content and their own skill development.
What makes you confident that students are learning more using Eli?
The most valuable learning that occurred with my students was the development of their ability to think reflectively about writing as well as their ability to *articulate* that reflection. In particular, during departmental review, my evaluator remarked that my students were able to have sophisticated discussions about writing in ways that she thought the entire department should be noticing and discussing.
Has working with Eli changed how you teach?
Eli helped me to think more critically about my course objectives and the methods I use to assess my students’ writing. The act of developing reviews and asking my students to evaluate their peers prompted this reflection. In using Eli, I have to be extremely deliberate in teaching evaluation, feedback, and revision, otherwise the technology, like any tool, functions only as a location for course-related tasks. One example would be the way in which I teach students how to use my department’s rubric to think about their own writing. I introduce the rubric in class and work with students to have discussions about how sample essays might be scored. Then, during reviews, students answer targeted questions about where their peers’ work might fall on the rubric. In the future, I’d like to start having students develop the evaluation criteria collaboratively, then use that criteria in the reviews.
Have you had any feedback from students or colleagues about your use of Eli?
I had a performance review recently, and my department representative observed on a day when we were working with Eli. Her feedback confirmed for me that the learning I’m seeing is tangible to outside observers as well:
One of the best parts about the class I observed was the emphasis on peer-review strategies. Jo doesn’t just say ‘OK, go peer review your partner’s work.’ She really walks the students clearly through the purpose of peer review, explains how it helps them become better and stronger writers, and she gives them examples of what not to do. This close attention to peer-review strategies is impressive and something I think our entire department could benefit from seeing.
What tip would you give an instructor using Eli for the first time?
When I decided to adopt Eli Review, I knew that I would have to transform my teaching practice in order to for Eli to have a meaningful place in my classroom. I would advise new Eli instructors to use the application to inform classroom instruction rather than as a “neat” tool to facilitate review. Transformative results are impossible without meaningful instruction to support peer review practice.