Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peer paper reviews..

... were a really good idea tonight.

My class tonight wrote some pretty good drafts. I suspect it's because they're writing on a topic they had to research for presentations, so they've been thinking about the topic for a while and have sources to use.

I went out of my way to make a good number of comments because the final paper is worth 25% of their grade. I also had them do a total of four rounds of paper exchanges.

The first round was an experiment -- I paired up students according to their grades on the draft... high/high and all the way down. They may or may not have had similar topics. Their task was to read the paper and tell the other person what it was about. The idea was that hearing another person's reporting the paper would help them to see what the ACTUAL focus of the paper is, not what the author thinks the paper is about.

The next three rounds were paired by a variety of means -- similar topic and position on the topic, complimentary topics and then just people who would give one another good feedback.

Each pair had 45 minutes to read, make comments and discuss. Next time I think I'll reduce the time a bit -- maybe 30 minutes per rotation.

At the end, more than a few students looked at me with some admiration... they actually appreciated the time and effort it takes to read and comment on a paper. When they realized that within 10 days I read about 70 drafts -- they came to appreciate the kind of effort and concentration that takes.

It really was nice to have them recognize the effort -- especially on a night when I'm pretty fried from reading so danged many drafts :).

I think next semester I'm going to do peer paper exchanges earlier in the semester.. I'm not sure how that will work, but I think that reading another student's work is very helpful enough to make time to put it in earlier rather than later.

I'm also toying with the idea of doing a very early, short, argument paper -- with a minimal research requirement. The paper would be pass/fail and I could use it to get students writing help earlier in the semester -- before it's too late.

5 comments:

Debbie said...

My husband used the 3.8 paragraph as an early exercise for his students when he taught English 101, to allow for easy peer review and to allow him to spot those who needed early intervention. There's a model model online at www.dcs.k12.oh.us/753220726144416460/lib/753220726144416460/model_38_paragraph.pdf

As I always explain to my students, no human being would ever write this way; it's just a shortcut to spot major arguments and supporting points.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

I've found peer review to be good for some students and ineffective for others -- glad it seemed to help yours. I think the students who struggle with it most in my class (literature) are those who have trouble recognizing the difference between an observation and an argument (and we've practiced this many times already!). They may tell another student that his/her paper is fine when in reality, the paper doesn't argue at all.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

That's why I tend to have multiple exchanges... so if a student gets stuck with one idiot partner, the whole exercise isn't a waste of time.

I also pair only after reading the drafts myself -- which lets me identify students who should work together and/or disagree on an issue. I also tend to do at least one rotation based only on the grades assigned to the draft, pairing the best ones together... so the good students get to work with another good student.

lelangir said...

"The first round was an experiment -- I paired up students according to their grades on the draft... high/high and all the way down. They may or may not have had similar topics. Their task was to read the paper and tell the other person what it was about. The idea was that hearing another person's reporting the paper would help them to see what the ACTUAL focus of the paper is, not what the author thinks the paper is about."

This sounds like a really great technique to use, I'll keep it in mind!

"At the end, more than a few students looked at me with some admiration... they actually appreciated the time and effort it takes to read and comment on a paper. When they realized that within 10 days I read about 70 drafts -- they came to appreciate the kind of effort and concentration that takes."

Again, an insightful bit there :)

Bitty said...

Couldn't access that link that Debbie offered. :(

Ah, peer review. I have yet to figure out a truly effective way to do it, but I'll consider what you've done here. I especially like the multiple exchanges strategy.

One problem I've had is that students rush through it. Done with both papers in 10 minutes. Another problem is the social angst. I once teamed two strong writers with a very poor writer, hoping that the strong writers would gently point out the deficits in poor writer's arguments. Instead, they said her! writing! was! great!

Poor writer was a beautiful young woman. Strong writers were guys. I think that had a lot to do with it. (Sigh.)

And oh boy, yeah, Contemporary Troubadour: not being able to tell an observation from an argument is an enormous problem among some of my students.