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Student Reflections: “The Broccoli Was Worth it”

We’ve written before about peer learning as being a bit like broccoli. It’s good for you more than good to you, especially the first bite.

The best surprises we get are students’ end-of-term comments. We’re sharing some of these comments here (with their instructor’s permission) as a celebration of the change that peer learning can have in how writers perceive feedback and revision. Well done, instructors!

Susanmarie Harrington (Twitter, Facebook, Profile), Director of Writing in the Disciplines and Professor of English at the University of Vermont, Tweeted about student reflections from her most recent semester:

Other instructors have been kind enough to share student reflections or course evaluations with us, giving us some insight into how students have come away thinking about peer learning and about feedback.

John Holland (instructor profile) of San Francisco State University shared this comment from a student in his fully-online Sophomore Writing course:

It is astonishing to see how the continuous feedback has helped develop our ideas. The difference between constant continuous feedback is substantial. As a writer, it is helpful for me to understand that there will be different people reading my work each time. It reminds me to be aware of my objectivity when writing and making sure that I explain thoroughly enough. When writing research papers, it is easy to overlook what you think your writer knows. I had to prompt myself to provide as much background as necessary for my reader to start understanding my argument. Having access to feedback through this cycle has greatly strengthened writing skills.

Brian Larson (Twitter) of Texas A&M Law School shared these comments from his face-to-face students in First-Year Legal Writing:

I still am unsure about the benefits of peer review, but I do put a good amount of thought into the reviews and I have done pretty well so far, so maybe it implicitly is helping me.

The class was structured in such a way that I always knew what was due and how to do it. There was very little guessing that had to be done with regard to due dates, assignments, or requirements of the course. The most beneficial feature of the class structure was the use of milestones through Eli Review to keep students from slacking. This feature of the class structure kept me on my toes and gave me a better understanding of the material.

Meagan Newberry (Twitter) from the College of Western Idaho shared these comments from students in her hybrid ENGL 102 course:

As a writer, learner, reviewer, laborer, and thinker at the beginning of English 102, my expectations were that I could improve my writing skills. I didn’t like giving and receiving feedback from peers, and I didn’t put great emphasis on peer reviews. However, after learning about Eli Student Tutorials and the Peer Review Discussion Board forum, my views and values were changed. I was not afraid to receive any critical comments and I knew that the more I say to others, the more I learn. I learned that critical comments are actually helpful for my revision plan. I was surprised that I realized I wasn’t happy when I just received compliments from my peers.

What I am especially proud of from this semester is I could give my peers useful comments. It was not easy to give specific numbers of critical comments because sometimes my peer’s draft essays seemed like they were already perfect for me. It took a while to give a comment for well-substantiated explanation essay. I wasn’t sure if my comments were accurate or not, but getting 11 Endorsements gave me confidence.

Learning and using the describe, evaluate, and suggest method helped me give more meaningful feedback for my peers. … Usually as a reviewer I was a huge compliment giver and now I have realized, this doesn’t really help you or your peers become better writers.

I think some of the avoidance of taking this class also was having to review other people’s writing. I struggle with getting my own papers checked and completed and now I must figure out what to say about somebody else’s. Typically, an assignment would be to swap papers and then “review” the paper. This review would mostly include grammatical error checking, organization, and some sandwich method comments. In this class I was resistant to the Eli Review method at first, but found the direct questions and Describe, Evaluate, Suggest and Scales methods very helpful in laying out feedback. It was much easier to have a specific item to look for in the paper to review then being given an entire paper and saying review this.

Joan Wong of San Francisco State University shared these comments First-Year Writing, Hybrid

In my Eli Review submission, I wrote that I felt the most comfortable with selecting feedback for my peer and felt the least comfortable with receiving feedback due to my feelings getting in the way. After this course, I now feel more comfortable with receiving feedback because during the Eli Review activities I saw just how flawed and imperfect the other students writing turned out. I realize now that we are all on the same boat. None of us can say for a fact that we are have a perfect writing style since there will always be a detriment among everyone’s writing, even as I currently type I have no doubt I made some errors along the way. Therefore, receiving feedback has become the least of my worries because I now realize I need the feedback more than ever.

Lydia Wilkes (Twitter) of Idaho State University shared these survey questions from her  First-Year Writing students:

  • Q: Practicing review and editing repeatedly helped me improve as a reviewer of other people’s writing. Strongly Agree–It helped because I could give feedback helpful to them to improve their writing.
  • Q: Practicing review, editing, and revision helped me improve my writing after the first draft. Strongly Agree–Completing that process made it easier for me to find the mistakes I made and to make my paper the best it could be.

Do you have any student evaluations or reflections that demonstrated growth or improvement related to peer learning? We’d love to hear from you!

Cover photo credit: Shelly

Student Reflections: “The Broccoli Was Worth it” was published to the Eli Review Blog in the categories Feedback, Success Stories.

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