Thanks to those of you who submitted your first drafts of the Education Narrative! Congratulations on composing your first formal assignment for your college writing course … that’s a huge (awesome) step forward 🙂
Of course, a first draft is only an initial part of our writing process — next comes revision. An important part of that process is peer review, where classmates will receive (and give) feedback on one another’s writing.
Since this is our first time doing peer review this semester, I’m going to walk you through how it will work here. If you’re anxious or feeling uncertain, no worries — I’m here to support you and, since we’ll be doing peer review throughout the rest of the semester, the process will become more seamless after this first time around. Make sure to read (and, as always, annotate!) this post before getting started on peer review.
When’s it due?
As per the weekly Schedule, your feedback on your two assignment peer’s first drafts are due Friday, 9/16. I’m going to extend the deadline to 10pm (instead of 12pm), to give you some extra time to thoughtfully complete the work (you’re welcome!). The Schedule page has been updated with that new deadline, along with a link to this post.
Of course, you and your group mates can continue to discuss and engage one another’s drafts into next week — I strongly encourage this! Peer review is not meant to be a one-shot deal or a one-way street, where one person simply reads/comments on an essay, and that is the end of the story. It’s meant to be a dialogue and an interactive process, where you all can offer feedback, ask questions, run things by one another, support the group, etc.! Writing (and revision) are a process, and an ongoing one. Embrace the process 🙂
What’s it worth?
Well, you can’t place a price on engaging with the writing process, becoming a stronger writer, collaborating and supporting your classmates, and learning. But … since I know you want to know about grading … This is an important part of your work in the course, and peer review counts as part of the 30% low-stakes (informal) writing grade for the semester.
*Note: If you did not submit a first draft by the deadline (W 9/14 by 12pm), you will not get the benefit of peer review. However, you are still part of a peer review group, and are responsible for reading and commenting on your two assigned essays. (This means that each of the five folks who DID submit their essays are going to get a lot of feedback … yay!)
Where do I go?
Peer Review for Unit 1 will be happening in Perusall (so if you didn’t already create your account and join our course site, make sure to do that ASAP!). I have uploaded all submitted student essays to Perusall (there are only a handful there, because, sadly, that’s all I received!).
UPDATE: I have created “Assignments” for each of the first drafts, so go to the two essays you are assigned to, and complete the work from there.
There is also a new “folder” in the Perusall Library, entitled “Student Work: Education Narrative First Drafts” (look within the “Unit 1 folder)”: each essay is there.You can view all submitted essays, but you are each only responsible for peer-reviewing two essays (see below for your assigned essays).
Each student is only responsible for reading / providing feedback on two of essays. Please peer review the essays I listed below with your names … do not just randomly choose which essay to read / comment on! I have worked to make things equitable.
Of course, since you have access to all essays, you are welcome (and encouraged!) to read through more and comment on more if you wish. You don’t have to do the entire peer review for these additional essays — feel free to even just drop one or two comments, or even a note of praise and validation (that goes a long way!).
But you are responsible for (being graded on) your feedback on your two peers that I listed below, so make sure to do that work first, and by the stated deadline.
*If I accidentally forgot to assign you two essays (or gave you more than two!), please comment here ASAP to let me know and I will fix it.
[Submitted Essays, which will be peer-reviewed]
The following students should peer-review Holaly’s essay:
The following students should peer-review Tahani’s essay:
- Syed Abbas
The following students should peer-review Henry’s essay:
- Syed Ali
The following students should peer-review Neal’s essay:
- Syed Ali
The following students should peer-review Brandon’s essay:
- Syed Abbas
What am I doing?
We’re using the Peer Review Worksheet below to guide your responses. Download this, and use it as your guide as you peer review. However, your feedback will be submitted in Perusall, as annotations — you are not submitting this worksheet anywhere else. It is for your reference.
Now that you’ve downloaded this Peer Review Worksheet and read through the questions there, go find the essays you have to peer review in Perusall. I suggest completing one peer review at a time, fully providing feedback first before moving on.
Ready to get started? Read through your group member’s essay once in Perusall to get a feel for how it works as a whole. Do not write any comments yet.
Now go through the draft again, using the provided Peer Review Worksheet to guide you in your response to it. Some questions require you to write a more holistic response (which you can do as an annotation at the end of the essay), which others require you to make marginal comments along the way. Either way, you should be clear, specific, and helpful (don’t just highlight content without an explanation).
After you address all of the Peer Review Worksheet questions, you should read through the draft again and make additional comments as you see fit. These marginal notes (where you ask questions, make comments, etc.) are an important part of your response.
I know that often students often feel uncomfortable and/or unqualified to do peer review. They think, who am I to give advice to someone else when I too am still learning? How can I offer writing feedback when I’m not the writing professor? What if I steer them in the wrong direction? What use or value is my perspective?
While these are understandable fears and concerns, I’m here to assure you that your perspective and feedback matters … it matters so much! The most valuable thing you can offer your peers is your own experience as a reader. Sometimes a writer intends to communicate something, but it misses the mark. The tone or diction (word choice) comes off the wrong way. They don’t explain their points clearly. They aren’t providing the information you need, as a reader, in the order you need it, to keep you un-confused (is that a word?). They lose your interest. They offend you (it happens to the best of us!). They use writerly strategies that are not, in Mike Bunn’s words, appropriate or effective for their purpose or their intended audience. Miscommunication happens in a thousand ways. You can help your peer to see your experience of reading their essay, and that helps them better shape the way they revise it going forward.
To sum up: one of the most useful things you can offer your peers is your understanding (or lack thereof) of their essays: if a writer (your classmate) means to say one thing, but the reader (you) takes away something else from the essay, then there is a disconnect that needs to be addressed. First noting and then working to bridge this gap is an important step in the revision process.
Of course, the writer does not have to accept every piece of feedback if they carefully consider it and decide it will not make their essay stronger. But each of you has to account for the feedback you receive, make intentional choices about whether (and how) you incorporate that feedback, and be ready to provide your rationale about those decisions (in fact, you will need to do that when you submit your final draft!0.
This is a chance for group work, dialogue, and an opportunity for an exchange of ideas.
A few additional tips:
- You should start with the most important issues first … if you believe the essay doesn’t actually do what the assignment asks, you should note that first and foremost, and then all work together to help your group member brainstorm revisions.
- Do not correct spelling, grammatical, or proofreading mistakes (you may indicate them by making annotations pointing them out, but you should not make changes to them for your peer). The goal is not to be their copy-editor, or point out all their mistakes. Of course, if you notice a something or a pattern, call attention to it by all means (that’s helpful!), but taking on the responsibility of actually doing the revision work for your peer only hurts them in the long-run.
- Remember to offer constructive criticism, and to offer your feedback in a generous, kind manner. The framing of your comments matters (you don’t want to be insulting, harsh, mean, or alienating). If you just say, “your essay was bad” or “there was nothing good about it,” you are going to not only hurt your group member’s feelings and destroy his/her confidence, you will also lose any hope of helping her (she will become defensive and just shut down). After you give your comments, you should listen to what she was “trying” to convey in the essay (because they can and should reply to you in Perusall), and then work together to negotiate revisions.
- That being said, don’t be too “easy” on your peers. You should definitely ask questions (in the margins), suggest productive directions for your peers to pursue, provide helpful feedback. The least helpful thing you can do for your classmates is to just state that everything is “pretty good” or “perfect” in the essay or that you “agree” with everything. Your goal is to help her re-vision the essay, not to merely praise it.
- However, under no circumstances is anyone to re-write any part of anyone’s essay (e.g., you should offer suggestions revision and ask questions that will help your peer to think more critically about her work and to produce more effective writing, but don’t simply give them the language–beyond a word suggestion here or there–that they should use).
- Finally (it bears repeating!), peer review is not simply two people bombarding the writer with criticism/comments … it is a conversation. The person who wrote the essay should feel free to ask questions of the other group members as well (come prepared with any questions/concerns about your essay that you would like to discuss with your group members).
Need help? If you have any questions, please drop a comment here. Otherwise, happy reading, and I look forward to seeing your comments in Perusall!
*Next week, I’ll be offering holistic feedback to the class on first drafts of the Education Narrative in the Unit 1 Writing Workshop post. Holistic feedback means to the class as a whole, based on patterns I see and general tips that everyone can benefit from; I won’t be providing individual written comments at this point. But of course, you are all more than welcome to come to my Office Hours this week or next to discuss your draft in detail.