How to Implement Peer Review

By Emil Towner

Photo of students working on laptop together.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

We’ve all heard about the benefits of peer reviewing, but how can you help students experience those benefits?

Richard Chisholm discusses some of the pitfalls and offers a simple exercise for implementing student peer reviewing in any course. The exercise is based on work by Karen Spear and Peter Elbow. The exercise offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Providing practice so students know how to effectively review a peer’s work
  • Helping students see how peer reviewing is useful beyond the classroom

Focus on Four Types

The exercise focuses on helping students focus on four types of feedback:

  1. Positive feedback on the paper’s best parts
  2. Description of the main points that were evident in the paper
  3. Questions about the writer’s meaning or wording in areas that are unclear
  4. Suggestions for areas that need more information, clarity, re-organization, etc.

In Addition…

I’ve also found it helpful to re-assure students that they do not need to be excellent writers themselves in order to peer review a paper. They simply need to approach the activity as a reader. That takes away a lot of pressure and helps center the discussion around the reader’s experience—that is, did the writer express the main points to the reader, was the reader confused at any point, what would help the reader better understand the paper?

Does it Work?

What do you think? Does Chisholm’s exercise for implementing student peer reviewing help? What other tips would you suggest?

About the Author: Emil Towner is Assistant Professor of Business Communication in the Marketing Department.