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This Question Turns 1 Peer Review into 2

If your course schedule asks students to write a full draft before a peer review, you can add one additional revision opportunity by asking this question:

Which part of the full draft most affects its success?

That’s the partial draft where peer learning can have a big impact. 

  • Asking writers to share what they’ve written so far encourages them to make progress on their draft.
  • Asking reviewers to give feedback on half-baked drafts encourages them to make bolder suggestions because sections are missing and there’s time to revise. 

Example: Finding Common Ground

Consider a full draft that asks students to present a problem, acknowledge several approaches to the problem, advocate for one, and bring everything together. It’s a Rogerian argument by any other name.

Check out this Rogerian Argument infographic from Excelsior Online Writing Lab (OWL) for a helpful list of the parts of the full draft. 

The success of the full draft depends on how clearly, fairly, and substantively writers acknowledge the merits of the opposition. The common ground in the introduction and the synthesis of the multiple perspectives that drives the conclusion depend on how well the sides are presented. 

Assign a partial draft that focuses on the middle parts of the full draft: problem, other sides, and writer’s own position. Then, assign a peer learning task that

  • guides reviewers in detecting bias, lack of balance, and lack of clarity in presenting the sides; and
  • encourages reviewers to propose common ground and ways to bring the sides together.

Here’s what that peer review might look like in Eli Review (view full annotated screenshot of student preview)

Checklist of criteria for problem

To customize this review for your own Eli course, create a review task and, from the upper right corner, choose “load from library” and load “Detecting Bias and Finding Common Ground.” (Read more about using Eli’s Task Repository.)

This peer learning activity serves a couple of purposes:

  1. It gives writers an early deadline for the background of the paper, which sounds easier than it usually turns out to be.
  2. It gives reviewers practice in noticing how writers acknowledge the opposition fairly, evenly, and clearly.
  3. It gives reviewers practice in thinking about how the sides come together. Finding common ground in others’ drafts gives writers more practice in this critical thinking skill than if they only focused on their own.
  4. Writers get ideas from several peers that they can use for their introduction and conclusion.

After this activity, students can complete their full draft, then peer review it for all the criteria in the rubric.

Example: Strongest Evidence Paragraph

For full drafts that require students to use sources, an easy way to add an additional revision opportunity is to ask students to submit the paragraph that has the strongest evidence. For this activity to work well, define strong evidence in your specific assignment. 

For example, a research project’s expectations for strong evidence might be:

  • currency of sources
  • credibility of sources
  • variety of sources
  • paraphrases or quotations
  • explanation of the source
  • connection between sources
  • connection to writer’s own main idea
  • in-text citation
  • bibliographic citation

Or, if it’s an analysis of text, the expectations for strong evidence might be:

  • selections from the text are evocative of multiple aspects of the analysis (character, theme, technique, etc.)
  • enough obvious or expected selections
  • enough unique or unexpected selections
  • well-narrated evidence to provide context
  • well-explained evidence demonstrating the analysis
  • clear connections between selections
  • in-text citation
  • bibliographic citation

In the peer review, reviewers can give feedback on how to build on the strengths or improve weaknesses in this paragraph. This activity helps students reflect on their own choices about evidence, so that they can revise before submitting a full draft.

Why 2 Peer Reviews Instead of 1?

In “Your Students Aren’t Revising Enough,” Eli Review co-inventor and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in Michigan State’s College of Arts and Sciences Bill Hart-Davidson said:

The greatest risk in your class is that students will not practice enough of the right skills at the right time to learn. Let me say that again: Your greatest risk as a teacher is assigning too little, poorly sequenced practice. With too little practice, the greatest risk is your students won’t learn.

In other words, we’re not confident two peer reviews is enough practice to help all your students succeed, but two opportunities to improve are better than one.

Learn More in a Group Planning Session

Hearing how other professors in various disciplines design assignments for revision can help you rethink your peer feedback strategies. 

Register for one of the free Work Sessions, and add more revision opportunities to your Fall 2021 courses:

This Question Turns 1 Peer Review into 2 was published to the Eli Review Blog in the categories Example Peer Feedback Tasks, Presentations, Professional Development.

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