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Peer Review/Conferencing, Workshops

Continuing the Conversation on Peer Review


[note: in this blog post Ian Kennedy is a response to the program’s February 2012 workshop on “Designing Effective Revision and Peer Review Workshops.” Full video of that workshop is available here.]

Something that came up in the recent workshop on peer revision and review was the issue of letting students leave for the day after reviewing their partner’s paper. This policy is generally not a good idea: first, because it encourages students to rush through the workshop (and do some rather skimpy peer-revision work) so they can leave early; and second, because it forgoes the productive activity of reconvening as a class at the end of the workshop so that students can share and reflect as a group on how the workshop went. Things become problematic, however, when one is teaching a shorter, 55-minute session rather than an 80-minute session. That is, in only 55 minutes, how can the instructor give students sufficient time and motivation to do some solid peer-review work, while leaving enough time at the end of the session to reconvene for some equally solid group reflection? Indeed, this was a problem I had to deal with when moving from an 80-minute 1020 format to a 55-minute 1020 format. I’d like to share some strategies I’ve developed for making this transition smoothly.

The central idea, here, is to manage time effectively by distributing a single peer-review workshop across multiple class sessions. For example, one can save time for group reflection by making part of the peer-review portion a take-home assignment. What has worked well for me is to have students answer one set of peer-review questions during the class period, and then answer another set of questions at home, before the next class period. For instance, for the rhetorical analysis workshop, I’ll have students discuss their partner’s analysis of the rhetorical situation during class, and then have them respond to their partner’s analysis of the rhetorical appeals at home, which they share with their partner during the next class session.

As well, I find it useful to have students create their own workshop questions as part of the take-home assignment, which students can use to shape peer-review activity in the next class session. Specifically, this is helpful for sustaining a productive question-answer dialogue through the second workshop session, in that it asks students to do something on that second day besides merely reciting their answers to the assigned take-home questions.

Ian Kennedy is GTA and PhD candidate in Film & Media Studies currently teaching ENG 1020. He is also a member of the program’s Mentoring Committee.

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