Thursday, May 22, 2008

Peer Review

The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.

Topic: Peer Review (Secondary/College)

Title: “Whither ‘Peer Review’? Terminology Matters for the Writing Classroom.” Sonya L. Armstrong and Eric J. Paulson. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (May 2008), 398-407. A Publication of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Summary: Makes the point that “peer review” means many different things to different teachers and students and urges the need to make terminology considerably more precise than it is.

Quote: “What instructors typically refer to as ‘Peer Review’ usually entails asking students to read and comment on their peers’ papers. That is about as common a description of the activity as is possible, though. In fact, what instructors have students do during peer review varies considerably….: pairs or small groups; structured or unstructured sessions; worksheet or discussion-based focus; emphasis on editing for surface-level errors or emphasis on larger, more holistic matters; and so forth. With so much variation in organization and approaches, it is clear that no community-wide understanding of what peer review is—or what it should be—currently exists.”

The authors go on to analyze what is known about various types of peer review: peer review; peer response; peer editing; peer evaluation; peer critique/peer criticism.

The authors conclude with these questions that need to be answered when defining peer review activities: “How do students understand these activities? Do particular activities benefit students’ writing or thinking more than others? In which classroom contexts is a particular activity most appropriate and why?”

Comment: The lack of clear definition of the terms related to peer review and the need to clarify terms related to writing—“editing,” “revision,” etc.—is one reason that I have looked skeptically at anything called “peer review.” This article is important. If we are going to use peer review how do we define it? Is it a worthwhile use of classroom time? Does it work? This article, in my opinion, is worth the cost of the journal. Go to RayS.

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