The students are submitting rough drafts of their first papers on Thursday which means we will be conducting Peer Review during class that day using laptops and the Canvas Peer Review tool.
I think Peer Review is an essential activity for a number reasons; however, it is extremely challenging to get students to give each other meaningful feedback. What typically happens is that they read each others’ drafts (assuming they have turned them in on time, etc. etc.) and then they make a few general comments and then they shut down. They don’t want (peer) feedback and they don’t want to give feedback. They just want me to “fix” their drafts.
Today we prepped for Peer Review with two activities. First, I created a document with a single paragraph from every student (I pulled this content from the 7 – 10 paragraph writing assignment they submitted last week: 5 paragraphs to a page. I put their names with their paragraph, although I also considered doing it anonymously…). Each team was given 5 paragraphs and asked to provide feedback in the margins. I had them do this before discussing anything, just to see what they would do/say without any additional direction.
To finish, I asked them to select the “Most Polished” of the 5 and justify their choice. While they read & commented I wrote on the board:
3 Rules of Feedback
As a class, we discussed the “most polished” paragraph from each of the five groupings and I challenged them to unpack words like “flow” or “personal” or “good”, etc. We concluded by discussing what the 3 Rules meant within the context of the papers they will hand in on Thursday. (Specific = no comments about the overall quality of the draft, only about specific items; Actionable = what can/should they do?; Kind = honest and text-focused, not author focused. I pointed out that having them rank the “Most Polished” was a form of giving kind feedback. No one was singled out, yet everyone who did not get picked now knows more about how readers judge their writing by comparison. Hopefully this sparked some self-reflection!)
Activity 2: Building A Rubric Across 2 Sections
To begin, I pulled up our Project 1 Assignment sheet and asked them how, if they were grading everyone’s essays, they would assess them? (Actually, I started by asking them if they knew what a rubric was–some did not.) We discussed the subjective nature of writing and the need for objective assessment. We discussed criteria and what would be most appropriate to assess based on what they had been asked to do in the assignment sheet. Then, they began to propose categories.
Both classes started with “Grammar” as the Number one Category, but I wrote it at the bottom of the board. It was challenging to get them to think more broadly than issues of grammar and style at first. They said things like, “Word Choice” and “Flow” and “How well it reads”, etc. I had to keep pushing and leading them into bigger picture categories. Eventually they got to: Introduction, Conclusion, Organization, Evidence/Content (or “the stuff in the middle of stuff” as one student humorously put it), and Significance.
Each group was then assigned the task of creating a 5 point scale to evaluate a category. 5 = superior, 1 = not yet (ala Carol Dweck). I explained that the rubric they created together would be used on Thursday to assess each other’s work.
While they worked, I created a table on a new Word document (on the projector) and filled in squares as they completed them so they could see what/how the other groups were completing the task.
That was in my 8:00 am class. In my later class, we did the same activities only instead of starting from scratch, I pulled up the rubric my first class had created and told them their job was to revise and refine the early class’s draft of the rubric.
For example, the first class had described superior “Organization” as “Thorough use of organization to create “flow” / connection.” The second class revised and refined it to: “Great transitions, supports thesis, strong topics.”
For “Evidence“, Class 1’s “Thorough word usage. Leaving the reader with no questions. Firm grasp on what happened in the experience” became after Class 2’s revision: “Concise and descriptive word usage. Keeps only relevant details, leaving the reader with no confusion.”
This was a really successful class plan because it helped me to better understand how they assess writing and how they approach revision. In rewording the language of the first class’s rubrics, instead of actually re-imagining the ideas or scope, I can already see that in the Peer Review (if left to their own devices), they will be hesitant to dig into the content (meaning anything but grammar and style) of their peer’s drafts.
Now I just have to figure out a way to push them to do that, to engage more meaningfully & creatively with the drafts they read. In other words, to begin the process of getting them to consider the foundation of the house before, or rather than, simply suggesting a new paint color!
I’m open to ideas…